Tests confirm that the rumours of fruits and vegetables containing pesticides are untrue

Food: Allaying rumours of adulterated fruits and vegetables being sold in the centenary farmers market, the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) confirmed through tests that the products were free of pesticides and safe for consumption.

BAFRA has been testing the content of pesticides on a variety of vegetables and fruits, both local and imported, at the farmers market since 2012. The fifth round of test is on going since August 19.

BAFRA’s officer in-charge for Thimphu, Kaling Dorji said although this is not the first time BAFRA is conducting such tests, it was felt important for the public to know that the rumours going around was untrue.

“We’ve been testing since 2012 and we’ve not found the presence of pesticide in any fruits and vegetables to date,” Kaling Dorji said. “It is absolutely safe for consumption.”

Prior to 2012, samples were sent to Thailand for tests. After it was found expensive, the agriculture ministry procured testing kits and began conducting tests here.

A volunteer from Thailand International Corporation Agency (TICA), Tawan Thammasunthorn, is providing technical assistance to BAFRA officials in sampling and conducting the test.

He said the test done in Bhutan is preliminary screening. If any products are found positive of pesticide content, samples are then sent to a laboratory in Thailand to confirm the level of pesticide content.

“These tests are almost 85 percent accurate,” he said adding that fruits and vegetables such as garlic and spring onion that have strong odour however require different tests.

BAFRA officials said there are also rumours about vegetable vendors in India using hormones to ripen their products much before the season. Should that be the case, the officials said two types of hormones could be used – growth promoters and regulators.

“But such produce can be easily examined and spotted physically,” the officials said.

Kaling Dorji however pointed out that, hormones injected to ripen farm produces before the harvesting time or to enlarge the size would be an expensive affair for farmers. “The hormones will be costlier than the product itself,” he said.

Meanwhile, BAFRA would complete testing all varieties of fruits and vegetables today and submit a report to the agriculture ministry. Similar tests are conducted every quarter as part of the authority’s regular monitoring.

Nirmala Pokhrel