More than 15 kinds of pesticides, including possibly cancer--inducing endosulfan, were found in 160kg of chrysanthemums recently imported from China, the Department of Health said yesterday, adding that the flowers had been destroyed before they could enter the Taiwanese market.
Endosulfan is an off-patent -organochlorine insecticide and acaricide that is gradually being phased out globally because of its acute toxicity, its potential for bioaccumulation and its role as an endocrine disruptor.
Only Miaoli County’s Tongluo Township (銅鑼) and Taitung produce fresh chrysanthemums, with a total of 42 hectares producing almost 30,000kg a year, all of which is used to make chrysanthemum tea, according to the Council of Agriculture.
The council said it has been advising farmers to apply for Good Agricultural Practice badges, adding that as long as citizens buy chrysanthemums in small amounts that are clearly marked as being produced in Tunglo or Taitung then they can avoid Chinese--produced chrysanthemums.
The council said all imported dried chrysanthemum flowers are from China. Last year, 157 tonnes were imported while 78 tonnes were imported in 2009.
The nation has imported 80 tonnes from January through last month.
Most is sold to Chinese medicine stores or drink vendors and it is primarily used for making chrysanthemum tea, the council said, adding that as five or six cloves of chrysanthemum can make a 300cc cup of chrysanthemum tea, if all 80 tonnes imported so far this year were made into tea it would produce about 8 million cups of the popular beverage.
It is unavoidable that bugs and insects are found in chrysanthemum flowers, so pesticides have to be used, the council said, adding that Taiwanese farmers for the most part obey the pesticide usage regulations.
However, Chinese regulations are not as rigid as Taiwanese regulations, according to the council.
The shipment of chrysanthemums had 69 times the maximum dosage of procymidone, 52 times the legal amount of endosulfan, 30 times the amount of prochloraz, 25 times the amount of lambda--cyhalothrin, double the amount of carbendazim and 14 times the amount of chlorfenapyr.
Carbendazim is also listed as a cancer-inducing agent by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
It can cause male infertility and anemia by suppressing bone -marrow activity.
Lin Ja-liang (林杰樑), a specialist on clinical toxicology at Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, said endosulfan is an -organochlorine insecticide that is capable of inducing cancer, causing deformed fetuses or being accumulated in human organs.
That much over the standard dosage rate is frightening, he added.
The Department of Health said that, since May, local government health bureaus have discovered high pesticide residues in both imported chrysanthemums and locally produced chrysanthemums.
As a result, they raised the inspection rate for imported chrysanthemums from 50 percent to 100 percent in late May.
A subsequent six shipments were all within the normal range and only the one shipment grossly exceeded standards, the department said.
Translated by Jake Chung, staff writer
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