Q-mark: not a guarantee of food safety

Q-mark: not a guarantee of food safety

You buy your fruits and vegetables in a modern Thai supermarket and you make sure they have a Q-Mark certificate. Thus, you can be certain they are safe to eat, right? Wrong.

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Many Thai consumers are taking a close look at the vegetables and fruit they buy in major supermarkets today, after chemical contamination was found in samples granted the "Q mark" for safety. PAWAT LAOAISARNTAKSIN

Q mark veggies found 'unsafe'

Consumers now wary of safety guarantee

Penchan Charoensuthipan

Consumer rights groups have called for action after chemical contamination was found in samples of vegetables and fruits granted the "Q mark" for safety.

Kingkorn Narintarakul na Ayutthaya, deputy director of the Thai Holistic Health Foundation (BioThai), said Monday that the samples had levels of pesticide contamination higher than products without the Q guarantee. She said this reflected the poor standards of the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards (ACFS), which authorised the safety logo for the products.

A Q-Mark certificate like this, properly make out, is supposed to be a guarantee of quality. It turns out that it's not.

BioThai called upon the agency to regain public trust by restoring adequate safety standards. Consumers often pay high prices for food with Q logos.

"This is unfair for consumers who expect safety," Ms Kingkon said, adding that customers pay up to 200% more than ordinary prices to purchase what they believe are safe products.

But the latest inspection of vegetables and fruits, jointly conducted by Thailand Pesticide Alert Network (Thai-Pan) and Foundation for Consumers, has called that safety into question.

They found that 87.5% of sampled products with the Q logo were contaminated with pesticides, while 62.5% failed to pass the maximum residue limit, said Thai-Pan coordinator Prokchon Usap. Switzerland-based SGS laboratory examined the food samples, Ms Prokchon said.

The fruit and vegetable samples included Chinese broccoli, cowpeas, chili, parsley, basil, oranges, strawberries, apples, guava and watermelons.

Sai Nam Phueng oranges were found to have the highest concentration of pesticides, and 100% of the sampled fruits were below safety standards, followed by guava, apples, Chinese broccoli and basil respectively, the groups reported.

Ms Prokchon also warned that washing the produce with water may not always remove the residue as some are contaminated with systemic pesticides, which are absorbed by plants and remain in their tissues.

Consumers should be wary of buying fruits and vegetables in Bangkok shopping malls, the groups said. Inspectors found more cases of contaminated produce in several big supermarkets in Bangkok than those sold at fresh markets in Bangkok suburbs, as well as in Yasothon and Songkhla, Ms Prokchon said.

"The results of the sampling might contradict what most people believe, that the products in big department stores might be safer and have better standards than local markets," Ms Prokchon said.

The findings have led to talks with representatives from shopping malls and the ACFS. But consumer advocate Phachara Klaokla said the state officials "appeared rather passive" and did not talk about resolving the problem. At that point the consumer groups decided to announce their findings.

ACFS chief Sakchai Sibunsue argued that officials occasionally sample food with the Q mark for inspection and take action if problems arise. In the case of the contaminated Sai Nam Phueng oranges, he believed farmers may have mixed Q-marked oranges with unsafe ones to increase the number sold.

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Vocabulary

  • absorb: to take in a liquid, gas or other substance from the surface or space around - ซึมซับ ดูดกลืน
  • adequate: good enough or large enough for a particular purpose - พอเพียง
  • advocate: someone who strongly and publicly supports someone or something - ผู้สนับสนุน
  • agricultural (adj): of the science or practice of farming - ที่เกี่ยวกับเกษตรกรรม
  • alert: a warning to people to be prepared to deal with something dangerous - การเตือนให้ระวัง
  • authorise: to give official permission for something, or to give someone official permission to do something - ให้อำนาจ, มอบอำนาจ, ให้สิทธิ
  • basil (noun): a plant with shiny green leaves that smell sweet and are used in cooking as a herb - โหระพา, กะเพรา
  • bureau: a government organisation - สำนักงาน
  • commodity: a product or a raw material that can be bought and sold - โภคภัณฑ์
  • concentration: the amount of a substance in a liquid or in another substance - สารที่มีความเข้มข้น
  • conduct: to do something in an organised way; to carry out — - ลงมือทำ, ดำเนิน, ปฏิบัติ
  • consumer: someone who buys and uses goods and services - ผู้บริโภค
  • contamination: the process of making something dirty, polluted, or poisonous by adding a chemical, waste, or infection - การปนเปื้อน
  • contradict: to say that the opposite of what someone has said is true - ขัดแย้ง
  • coordinator: someone whose job is to organise the various parts of an activity and make sure that all the people involved work well together - ผู้ประสานงาน
  • cowpeas (noun): (also cow peas) a type of bean that is white with a black spot and is grown for food - ถั่วพุ่ม
  • deputy: a person whose rank is immediately below that of the leader of an organisation - รอง
  • foundation: an organisation that provides money for things such as medical research or for a charity - มูลนิธิ
  • grant: to officially give something - ให้
  • guarantee (noun): a promise or certainty that something is correct, will be done or will happen - คำรับรอง, การประกัน
  • guava (noun): the fruit of a tropical American tree, with yellow skin and pink flesh - ฝรั่ง
  • holistic (adj): considering a whole thing or being to be more than a collection of parts; (medical) treating the whole person rather than just the symptoms (= effects) of a disease - แบบองค์รวม, การแพทย์แบบพหุลักษณ์
  • inspection: the act of looking closely at something or someone and to check that everything is as it should be; examination - การตรวจสอบอย่างละเอียด
  • inspector : an official whose job is to check that things are in the correct condition or that people are doing what they should - ผู้ตรวจสอบ
  • jointly: done together - อย่างร่วมกัน, พร้อมกัน, ด้วยกัน
  • laboratory: a room or building used for scientific research, experiments, testing, etc - ห้องปฏิบัติการ, ห้องทดลอง
  • level: the amount of something that exists in a particular situation at a particular time - ระดับ
  • limit: the greatest or smallest amount of something that is allowed - ขีดจำกัด
  • local: in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about - ท้องถิ่น
  • logo: a printed design or symbol that a company or an organization uses as its special sign - โลโก้, เครื่องหมาย
  • maximum: the most possible - ที่สูงสุด ที่มากที่สุด
  • network: a large system of connected parts, organisations, people, etc. - เครือข่าย
  • occasionally: sometimes, but not frequently or regularly - บางครั้งบางคราว
  • parsley (noun): a plant with curly green leaves that are used in cooking as a herb and to decorate food - ผักชีฝรั่ง
  • passive: accepting what happens or what people do without trying to change anything or take action - อยู่เฉยๆ, ไม่ดิ้นรน, ไม่ดิ้นรน, เฉื่อย
  • pesticide: a chemical used for killing insects, especially those that damage crops - ยาฆ่าแมลง
  • produce: things that have been made or grown, especially things connected with farming - ผลผลิต, ผลิตผล
  • public: the public; all people; the people in general - มหาชน, ประชาชน
  • reflect: to show - สะท้อน แสดงถึง
  • regain: to get back something that was lost - ได้กลับมาใหม่
  • representative: someone who has been chosen or elected by a person or group to vote, give opinions, or make decisions for them - ผู้แทน
  • residue: a small amount of something that remains at the end of a process - ส่วนที่เหลือ, เศษตกค้าง
  • resolve: to solve a problem, or to find a satisfactory way of dealing with it - แก้ไขปัญหา
  • respectively: in the order in which they were mentioned - ตามลำดับ
  • restore: to bring somebody/something back to a former condition, place or position - กลับคืน, กลับมารับตำแหน่ง
  • rights (noun): the basic rights which it is generally considered all people (or animals) should have, such as justice, freedom and the freedom to say what you think - สิทธิ
  • sample: a small amount of a substance that is used for scientific or medical tests - ตัวอย่างทดลอง
  • sample: to test a small amount of something in order to get information about the whole thing - เอาเป็นตัวอย่าง, สุ่มตัวอย่าง
  • standard: a (high) level of quality - มาตรฐาน
  • suburb: an area or town near a large city but away from its centre - ชานเมือง
  • systemic (adj.): affecting all of something (such as the whole economy); having a widespread effect - ทั้งร่างกาย, ทั่วกาย
  • tissue: any of the distinct types of material of which animals or plants are made, consisting of specialized cells and their products - เนื้อเยื้อ
  • trust: a feeling of confidence in someone that shows you believe they are honest, fair, and reliable - ความเชื่อใจ, ความไว้วางใจ
  • wary: careful or nervous about someone or something because you think they might cause a problem - ระมัดระวัง

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