Monday, June 20, 2011


It is true that in Europe many member countries are scared by the increasing incidences of food safety breeches and the consumers want the EU to take more stringent preventive steps to arrest the trend. Against such a background they cannot be blamed if the safety bar is raised continuously which may not be liked by the countries exporting foods to this region. Latest instance is regarding the pesticide residue in Guar Gum, a food additive used mainly for viscosity modification and improvement textural properties in processed foods and beverages. Already there is a scare regarding the presence of Dioxin in imported foods and now comes the news that pesticide residues are also found in imported Guar Gum products beyond permissible limits. However, over reaction by exporting countries can only harm their exports as being demonstrated by the recent stipulation by Indian authorities not to allow export of Guar Gum unless it is free from pesticide residues like PCP. What is the provocation for this new stipulation is not clear. Is it based on technical evaluation of the situation or just an arbitrary decision? If the importing countries are making such demands, is it not incumbent on the part of GOI to negotiate and convince the buyers regarding the technical constraints in reducing PCP to zero level? is this ban based on international protocols or just a precaution? Industry has a right to know about it in a more transparent manner.

"Indian food-grade guar gum export to the European Union is set to take a hit as the commerce ministry has directed exporters that there should be absolutely no pesticide content in the product. Till now, the commerce ministry had allowed a 0.01 milligram of pentacholorophenols (PCP), a pesticide, in a kg of food-grade guar gum. The move comes at a time when the industry is flooded with orders from EU countries. "In FY10-11, the guar gum industry earned an export revenue of Rs 2,000 crore. And this year, the export trend is extremely positive. This recent notification (notification no. 47 RE-2010 dated May 18, 2011) has created a lot of confusion among exporters. We have taken up the matter with Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT). We are hoping that things will be sorted out this week," said Debjani Roy, executive director of Shefexil. In fact, containers are piling up at Kandla port which is worrying guar gum exporters. The guar gum industry in India has been following the quality requirements as laid down by the EU commission directive (No 258/2010 of March 25, 2010) and DGFT notification (No 50/2009-14 dated July 6, 2010). "There has been no case of dispute with the PCP presence limit of below 0.01mg/kg of guar gum," Roy added".

If the importers want zero limit for PCP, they must pay for it and GOI must help the industry to strike amicable agreements with the buyers in stead of holding up export consignments without giving clearance. Pesticide residues in foods are attracting igreater attention all over the world and their presence in foods is not tolerated by consumers with increasing sensitivity to this issue due to fear of health risks associated with them. If pesticide use is inevitable there has to be a cost-benefit-risk assessment and only based on such evaluation decision regarding the residue level can be taken. Commerce Ministry of GOI must reconsider its decision based on technical considerations rather than pious attitude and "holier than thou" approach!

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