When in Bangladesh eat at your own risk

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Dhaka: Banned pesticides that cause serious health hazards have been found in fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products and dry fish, in Bangladesh. According to a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) sponsored test at a government laboratory said the presence of toxic substances in the food samples was three to 20 times the limits set by the European Union.

The test results of the National Food Safety Laboratory (NFSL) show 40% of the 82 samples contained pesticides that have been banned more than one and a half decade ago for high toxicity.

The banned pesticides include DDT (Dichloro- diphenyl- trichloroethane), Aldrin, Chlordane and Heptachlor that are extremely harmful to humans.
Carrot, bean, tomato, lettuce, capsicum, banana, apple, pineapple and mango were contaminated with highly toxic pesticides. And the presence of banned pesticide Aldrin was found in milk, according to the NFSL tests.

A number of agriculturists have blamed lax government monitoring at field level for the use of banned pesticides in food. These pesticides are probably being smuggled into the country, as import of the highly toxic substances has been banned for long.

Some 50% of the vegetable samples and 35% of the fruit samples were contaminated with chemical pesticides, which the lab analysts said are unsafe for humans. These pesticides are toxic to humans and animals, say food safety and public health experts.

Accumulation of toxic substances in human body over a long period can lead to cancer, neurological and reproductive problems, said Sridhar Dharmapuri, food safety officer of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Bangladesh. Sridhar added that heavy metals such as lead, chromium and arsenic also accumulate in the body and may cause kidney and liver failure and abnormality among children.

“It is surprising that these pesticides are found in common food items, despite the fact that these chemicals were banned long ago because of high toxicity,” said Syed Nurul Alam, chief scientific officer at Entomology Division of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI). A test at the BARI lab also found the presence of banned pesticides in dry fish last year, he added.

The plant protection wing of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) is responsible for regulating and monitoring use of pesticides in farming. Its field offices have specialists and inspectors to look into matters relating to pesticides and plant protection.

DAE Director General Md Abu Hanif Miah told journalists that all field offices have instructions to take action against sales and use of banned and substandard pesticides.