Govt urged to stick to chemicals ban after paste find

Govt urged to stick to chemicals ban after paste find

Saree: Consumers at risk
Saree: Consumers at risk

The National Hazardous Substances Committee (NHSC) has been urged to stand by its commitment to ban paraquat and chlorpyrifos from the agricultural sector, after traces of the toxic herbicide and pesticide were detected in food ingredients.

The Foundation for Consumers, a consumer rights advocacy group, on Sunday urged the NHSC to stick to the timeline it has set to phase out use of the chemicals, as the committee prepares to review the ban.

The review was requested by proponents of the chemicals, which are challenging the ban on the chemicals that took effect on June 1.

"We hope the evidence of [the chemicals'] impact on health will reaffirm the committee's prior decision," said Saree Ongsomwang, the president of the Foundation for Consumers.

"Moving back and forth will only tarnish the country's reputation," she said.

On Friday, the foundation published the results of its latest food test, which found residues of paraquat in nam pu -- fermented field crab paste -- sourced from shops in six northern provinces: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Phayao and Phrae.

"The discovery of paraquat in food ingredients clearly shows that consumers are at risk," she said.

"The amount might be minute, but paraquat is highly toxic.

"It shouldn't be in food anyway, as the use of paraquat has been made illegal since June."

Last year, the foundation reported that it found no paraquat residues from papaya salad with crabs that it sampled for a study.

This study was used by the Agriculture Ministry and pro-chemical groups to show that consumers were not at risk of being exposed to the toxic herbicide, which prompted the foundation to launch another study.

The tests -- which it conducted between Sept 7-15 -- focused on nam pu, as they are made from field crabs picked from paddy fields.

The crabs naturally accummulate traces of herbicides and pesticides, including paraquat, which make them a good indicator of their surroundings' conditions, the foundation said.

The foundation found that eight out of the 24 samples of the homemade condiments were tainted with paraquat, at an average of 0.042 milligrammes per kilogramme (mg/kg).

"We are concerned by the high amounts [of paraquat] that found in about one-third of the samples.

"This means that consumers are still at risk, despite the chemical having been banned," she said.

Instead of giving farmers more time to use the toxic chemicals as the ban is phased in, the government should provide support for farmers to make the switch to healthier, more environmentally-friendly farming methods, she added.

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