Special Correspondent

Apologises for not being present to make a statement in House

  • Agriculture Ministry asked to give residue data relating to pesticides used on sugarcane
  • Expert panel formed to advise on pesticide residues
  • A pilot study last year did not find pesticide residues in sugar samples

    NEW DELHI: Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Anbumani Ramadoss on Monday apologised for his absence from the Lok Sabha when he was to make a statement on pesticide content in soft drinks.

    ``I apologise for not being present when I was called to make a statement and I assure [you] that this will not happen again,'' he told Speaker Somnath Chatterjee before coming out with his statement in the post-lunch session.

    Dr. Ramadoss' absence drew Mr. Chatterjee's ire in the morning when he was called to read out his statement. Twice, Mr. Chatterjee said: ``He should have been here'' and added ``I resent his absence.''

    CSE findings being studied

    Dr. Ramadoss said in the statement his Ministry had taken note of the studies by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and its findings were being examined.

    ``The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare views the issue of contamination of soft drinks [carbonated water] with utmost seriousness and is committed to protecting the health of the consumers and will take all necessary steps to ensure this,'' he said.

    The standards for soft drinks (carbonated water) had been amended, making it mandatory to use water conforming to standards prescribed for Packaged Drinking Water under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955. The Ministry had set up a National Level Expert Committee to advise the Central Committee for Food Standards on pesticide residues.

    It had asked the Agriculture Ministry to give the requisite residue data in respect of all pesticides registered for use on sugarcane, to help in notifying the Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs). To reduce the time taken to fix the MRLs, the Ministry had streamlined the process.

    Pilot study

    The Ministry had commissioned a pilot study of sugar samples last year to establish the methodology of sampling and testing for fixing the MRLs. The study of 200 sugar samples collected from retail and wholesale outlets, as well as sugar factories from all regions of the country, had been entrusted to Bidhan Chandra Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (BCKVV) in Kolkata.