India sugar is pesticide free, says study

By Ankush Chibber

- Last updated on GMT

Indian sugar been flagged as pesticide-free by study
Indian sugar been flagged as pesticide-free by study

Related tags: Pesticide

The pesticide food safety issue that has tainted India’s sugar market for more than a decade has been cleared in the wake of a study suggesting India-produced sugar is pesticide free.

The joint research, from the National Institution of Nutrition (NIN) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), showed that representative samples of sugar from across the country had no detectable presence of pesticides.

The study saw researchers test 27 samples collected from different states and mills across the country for the presence of organophosphate and organochlorine pesticides. Sugar samples were collected from mills in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and West Bengal.

Findings indicated an absence of pesticides; including alpha endosulfan and beta endosulfan, chlorpyrifos and DDT analysed at 0.1 microgram per kilogram level.

A Maharashtra-based sugar miller, who requested to remain anonymous, told FoodNavigator-Asia that this study is good news, especially for exportsas India is discussing the removal of government controls on sugar.

“I am sure exports would be boosted thanks to this study. I also think makers of carbonated beverages can now shut up about the pesticide contamination in their drinks coming from our sugar,”​ he said.

Pesticide concerns

Cola companies have recently claimed that pesticide residues in sugar contaminated their bottled beverages, while pro-health groups and sugar makers said that is probably from the water they use.

Pesticide contamination has been in the news across India for a while, with activist groups pounding the government and industry over the presence of pesticide residues in finished agricultural products containing sugars.

Last month, the Delhi High Court lambasted the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for claiming that that there is a well­established system to monitor presence of pesticides in food products.

The court was adjudicating on the issue after taking notice of reports, which suggested that impermissible pesticides like endosulfan were found in food items, vegetables and fruits, especially around Delhi.

The FSSAI said that while Endosulfan was banned for use, its presence in food items might be evidenced over the next few years since the pesticide was already mixed with groundwater and soil.

Pro-health groups have demanded that the government set a minimum residual level (MRL) of pesticides in packaged agricultural products, including fruit and vegetable juices and carbonated beverages.

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