A decision by the Department of Health to relax standards for a pesticide residue on apples has angered consumer activists who believe the move may have been the result of pressure from the US.
The government had previously banned the presence of any residues of the pesticide endosulfan on any apples sold in the country, but announced on March 29 that endosulfan residues of up to 0.5ppm would now be acceptable.
“All apples, whether imported or locally grown, will be subject to the new endosulfan inspection level,” said Hsieh Ting-hung (謝定宏), deputy director of the Bureau of Food Safety.
Hsieh said the new norm was set after consulting joint standards established by the WHO and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, as well as US and EU standards, as part of an effort to review standards for residues of various pesticides on different agricultural products.
The new endosulfan standard for apples, which will take effect three days after being officially promulgated, has sparked criticism from consumer advocates.
Sun Lih-chyun (孫立群), an associate professor at National Taiwan University’s College of Bio-Resources and Agriculture and a member of the nonprofit Consumers’ Foundation, cited the foundation and local farmers’ associations as saying the US had exerted political pressure on Taiwan to force it to lower food safety standards.
The US is one of the main sources of apples sold in Taiwan, along with Japan, New Zealand and Chile.
Sun said two shipments of US apples were rejected earlier this year by authorities because they were found to have endosulfan residues ranging from 0.02ppm to 0.04ppm.
Information from the Consumer Protection Commission shows that two US apple shipments were rejected in February and six more in March, mostly because they were found to contain endosulfan residue.
Gaston Wu (吳家誠), a professor at National Taiwan Normal University and secretary-general of the Consumers’ Foundation, said many local fruit growers have filed complaints with the foundation over the government’s decision to lower the standard for the pesticide in apples.
Lin Ja-liang (林杰樑), a clinical toxicology specialist with Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Linkou, said endosulfan is a highly toxic pesticide that affects the central nervous system.
“It should not be allowed to be present in any apple because a large intake of it can lead to liver damage, the weakening of the immune system, and even miscarriages,” Lin said.