10th July 2014,Varanasi
Vegetables play an important role in nutritional security, economic viability and fit well into the predominant intensive cropping systems prevailing in different parts of our country. More than 60 kinds of vegetables are grown in India in tropical, subtropical and temperate agro-climates. India is largest producer of okra and ranks 2nd in production of potato, onion, cauliflower and cabbage. During 2013-2014, India produced 162.19 million tonnes of vegetables and vegetable export from our country was worth Rs. 5462.93 crores. Though India’s share in global market is only about 1%, there is increasing acceptance of horticultural products from our country. However, to enhance our export, we have to harmonize our production with international food safety and standards.
Major food safety issues related to vegetables are pesticide residues, microbial contaminants, colouring agents, and heavy metals. Among these, pesticide residue is the most important food safety factor. Farmers use pesticides as first line of defense for the management of pest and diseases and frequently resort to indiscriminate and non-judicious use of pesticides leading to accumulation of pesticide residues. Colouring agents and dyes which are carcinogenic are normally used to improve freshness and appearance of vegetables. Microbial contaminants are of special concern because some of the vegetables are taken raw, thus posing potential food safety problems.
Considering seriousness of the issue for domestic consumption and export, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has recognized Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (IIVR), Varanasi, an ISO 9001-2008 certified institute of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) as a National Referral Food Laboratory for Vegetables vide Order F. No. 3-2/RP/Standards/2012-FSSAI dated June 10, 2014. The institute is in process of developing state-of-the-art analytical facilities and will carry out functions related to analysis of pesticide residues, heavy metals, microbial contaminations, mycotoxins, antibiotics, disinfectants, colouring agents, adulterants, food additives, phytohaemagglutinin, allergens etc. in vegetables.
(Source: IIVR, Varanasi)