Cagayan de Oro City, June 16 – Equally putting value on food safety amid the coronavirus contagion, the DA-Bureau of Plant Industry – Satellite Pesticide Analytical Laboratory here (BPI-SPAL-CdO) continues to monitor pesticide residue level of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and semi-processed products.

In support to the Department of Agriculture – Regional Field Office 10’s mobile market commonly known as Kadiwa which took off since the COVID-19 crisis, BPI-SPAL-CdO has collected 66 samples from the fresh fruits and vegetables being sold in said market for the period of April 15-May 20.

“Anchored on the Food Safety Act of 2013, we determine pesticide residues in agri products to protect local consumers from possible health hazards,” William F. Mugot, the officer-in-charge of BPI-SPAL-CdO remarked.

Priority commodities monitored include: tomato, ampalaya, pechay, eggplant, string beans and sweet pepper, as these are usually identified having pesticide residues, based on historical surveillance data, the agri official added.

“Historically, the data collected from them [Canitoan Farmers Cooperative], one of our Kadiwa exhibitors here, in barangay Pagatpat, show that pesticide residues were detected in their agricultural produce, but are found to be below the MRL,” Mugot revealed.

Shortly referred to as MRL or Maximum Residue Limit as defined by the Codex Alimentarius of the United Nations – Food and Agriculture Organization is the maximum concentration of a pesticide residue to be legally permitted in or in food commodities and animal feeds.

Every pesticide has its own MRL for every commodity.

“Samples taken from the Kadiwa are still pending, but they have already undergone preliminary processing and extraction procedures and are waiting for final Gas Chromatography (GC) analysis,” he explained.

Due to quarantine restrictions, there has been a challenge in sourcing out Ultra High Purity Gases (99.9999%) such as helium and nitrogen which are needed for laboratory instruments to operate, since suppliers in Manila imports them from China and Singapore,” he added.

Nevertheless, Mugot assured that generation of results will be out soon, come the availability of said gases.

“If the samples are negative, in one or two days, the results will be out. If tested positive, an additional confirmatory test is done to ensure the presence of pesticide residues and determine whether it has exceeded the MRL or not,” he guaranteed.

Mugot also emphasized that local government units (LGUs) play a vital role in food safety.

“As of now, the SPAL-CdO protocol is to send the results of analysis to the LGUs concerned for appropriate action. Should the agri produce of farmers contain pesticide residues above MRL, the LGUs would coordinate with the farmers concerned for interventions, such as trainings and information campaigns,” the agency head explained.

“We should understand that the MRL is a regulatory trade limit, such that, commodities with residues exceeding MRL means that the farmer did not follow the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) in producing that particular commodity,” he added.

Meanwhile, he underscored that consumption patterns should also be taken into consideration in relation to MRLs.

“Say for instance, we have an MRL of a pesticide at 0.2 milligrams per kilogram (parts per million) for tomato and we were able to detect residue above the MRL at 1.0 milligrams per kilogram. This does not necessarily mean that our health is in danger if we consume the tomato, since we normally do not eat 1 kilogram of tomato every day and expectedly, we would not exceed our Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI),” he clarified.

“Additional processing such as washing and cooking would further reduce the risk and more importantly, we should also vary our diet of fruits and vegetables to minimize the risk,” he added.

Besides pesticide residues, Mugot also reminded consumers to similarly put premium on the physical and biological hazards on food by following practical tips, especially amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic: Regularly wash your hands with soap at least 20 seconds before and after holding objects; Wash thoroughly fruits and vegetables under running water before consuming or mixing them as ingredients in the preparation of food; Cook well the vegetables in order for microorganisms to die; and Ask someone else to prepare the food on your behalf, if you have a cough or colds.

Taken altogether, he pointed out would mean a big step in addressing potential health hazards on food.

For the same period, on top of the samples taken from the Kadiwa market, DA-BPI-SPAL-CdO have also taken 117 samples from the Bulua Vegetable Landing Area, 101 imported rice samples from Vietnam and Myanmar submitted by BPI-Plant Quarantine in support to the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law.

The DA-BPI-SPAL-CdO office and laboratory is located here in the city, at BPI Compound, Macabalan. It covers three regions, including Northern Mindanao, Zamboanga Peninsula and the CARAGA Region. #