A survey by the Taipei City Government’s Department of Health yesterday showed that lemons purchased at a chain supermarket contained traces of parathion, a toxic pesticide banned since 1997.
The department said fruit and vegetables samples collected in July showed that nine of 59 samples contained pesticide residues, with one lemon sample containing 12 times the maximum permissible amount of chemical pesticide residue — 0.12 parts per million (ppm) of imidacloprid, when the maximum was set at 0.01ppm.
The Council of Agriculture has listed imidacloprid as a pesticide that farmers must register and for which they must obtain permission on a case-by-case basis to use. It is only allowed on leafy vegetables, brassica vegetables and a limited number of other crops, but prohibited on lemons, the department said.
Moreover, the lemons were also found to carry 0.08ppm of parathion, which the council banned in 1997.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, parathion is “extremely toxic from acute [short-term] inhalation, oral and dermal exposures,” and acute exposure may result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, difficult breathing, coma, respiratory failure and other symptoms.
The department has requested dealers to recall the lemons and local departments of health at the sources of the lemons to investigate. The department said farmers that use excessive amounts of pesticide on their products could be fined between NT$60,000 (US$2,000) and NT$6 million.
To reduce the risk of absorbing pesticides, the department encouraged consumers to purchase fruit and vegetables with certification labels, throw away the outer layers of leaves and the roots when washing vegetables, soak fruit and vegetables in water for between 10 and 20 minutes before washing in two or three changes of water, and keep pot lids off for the pesticide residues to evaporate with the steam.