The government is seeking to improve the management of pesticide used in the production of high-risk agricultural products, officials said on Friday, after more than one-third of produce failed a recent inspection.
The Consumers’ Foundation on Thursday announced the results of an inspection of 80 food items in four categories, in which 36 percent of the total failed tests for pesticides.
The failure rate was much higher than in other inspections over the past few years, the foundation said.
Executive Yuan Food Safety Office Director Hsu Fu (許輔) and Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Chen Junne-jih (陳駿季) said that food products that are at high risk of excessive pesticide residue would be more closely monitored, adding that guidance would be provided to farms.
The foundation tested bell peppers and two kinds of bok choy, which had a combined failure rate of about 30 percent, as well as hot peppers, which had a failure rate of about 60 percent, it said.
Of the 80 items, 67 were bought in outdoor markets, public markets and small shops, and 26 of them, or 38 percent, failed the inspection.
The remaining 13 items were bought at large chain stores, hypermarkets and supermarkets, of which three, or 23 percent, failed inspection.
Hsu said that managing pesticide residue is the responsibility of two agencies: the council before the item hits the shelves and the Ministry of Health and Welfare thereafter.
Local health bureaus are responsible for conducting annual inspections on 4,500 produce items, he said, adding that items that fail inspections would in the future be handled by an interdepartmental team.
Five years ago, the government found high levels of pesticides in locally grown passionfruit and spices, but levels were brought under control with strict management, he said, adding that officials would draw from that experience.
Chen said that inspections conducted by the Consumers’ Foundation usually produce different results from government inspections.
“For example, if the foundation tests three items and one fails, that is a failure rate of 33 percent, which is quite high. However, the council inspects 20,000 items at a time, and the pass rate is generally 96 to 98 percent,” he said.
The items inspected by the foundation are already on the shelves and they might fail the inspection due to poor management by the respective vendor, Chen said.
The items inspected by the council are sourced from farmers who participate in a self-management mechanism, and when items with excessive pesticides are found, they can be left in the field for the residue to dissipate on its own, he said.
The council would next year begin sending mobile testing centers to remote areas to help farmers participate in the self-management scheme, despite living far from stationary testing centers, he said.
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