Neat packages, approved logos, and the point of purchase are among the factors that make most people pick up a pack of vegetables for home cooking. But good looks can sometimes be misleading.
Chalard Sue magazine (Smart Buyers) sent samples of seven common vegetables used mostly in every kitchen to the Department of Medical Science's laboratory last March to trace chemical residues. The seven, all from the shelves of well-known supermarkets in the city, were cabbage, Chinese kale, long beans, Chinese cabbage, water morning glory, coriander and Jinda chilli.
Each package carried logos that guarantee quality. One is the Q logo issued by the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards, and the other is guaranteed by the supermarket brand.
The first group with the Q logo included cabbages from a Royal Project in Chiang Mai; Chinese kale, water morning glory, coriander, and chilli distributed by Thitawan Orchard under the Fresh Deli brand; and long beans, and Chinese cabbage under Pak Doctor (doctor's vegetables) brand by Doctors' Vegetables Co Ltd.
The other group featuring as supermarkets' house brands included cabbage and Chinese cabbage from Tesco Lotus, Bang Prakok branch; Chinese kale from Home Fresh Mart, The Mall Ngamwongwan; long beans from Tesco Lotus, Rama 2 branch; water morning glory; chillis from Tesco Lotus, Rama 1 branch; and coriander from Gourmet Market, Siam Paragon.
The house brand packages did not provide details about the name of farmers or producers.
The tests primarily targeted two chemicals, organophosphate and carbamate, which are widely used by farmers.
The scientists used acceptable residues limits set by the EU on the chemicals, less than 0.1mg per kilogramme of vegetable for metiocarb, which is a type of carbamate, and 0.02mg for methidathion, in the absence of locally-set standards.
Lab tests showed that the samples of cabbage, Chinese cabbage, and water morning glory were free of chemical residues of both types. Contamination, mostly within acceptable limits though, was traced in the rest of the samples.
Chinese kale from Fresh Deli contained 0.01mg of methiocarb compound while the one from Home Fresh Mart, The Mall Ngamwongwan, contained 0.05mg of methidathion, which exceeded the EU standards.
While most consumers believe long beans are among those with high chemical residues, the lab test revealed otherwise. The sample from Pak Doctor had 0.07mg of carbofuran and 0.08mg of methomyl, which are under the safety limit of 0.1mg for the former and 1mg for the latter. The other sample from Tesco Lotus Rama 2 contained 0.05mg of ethion, which is still within the limit of 1mg.
All samples of coriander, meanwhile, contained chemical residues higher than the EU limits. The one from Fresh Deli had 0.05mg of methi-dathion, exceeding the 0.02mg limit while the sample from Gourmet Market, Siam Paragon, was found to be contaminated with several types of farm chemicals. Except for aldicarb, at 0.01mg, the residues exceeded safety standard: 0.84mg of chlorpyrifos (against 0.05mg limit), 0.06mg of methidathion ( 0.02mg limit), 0.75mg carbofuran (0.02mg limit).
Samples of chilli from Fresh Deli and Tesco Rama I exceeded safety standards, with 0.31mg of chlorpyrifos, against the EU standard of 0.05mg, and 0.05mg of methidathion, against 0.02mg limit, respectively.
It should be noted that the use of carbofuran and methomyl has been banned in developed countries. Local farm activists have urged the government to also slap a ban on the chemicals, together with dicrotophos and EPN, without success.
The magazine put on its Facebook page the results of its online survey on the most popular places people buy fresh produce. Fresh, open-air markets ranked top among 305 respondents, followed by supermarkets and vending cars plying small sois around the city. The survey also found that 9.5% of respondents have started growing their own vegetables for home cooking.
Information courtesy of Chalard Sue (Smart Buyers) magazine.
About the author
- Writer: Sirinya Wattanasukchai