The Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), has allayed public fears that fruits and vegetables in the country are contaminated with pesticide residues and, thus, unsafe to consume.
Pesticide residues refer to the pesticides that may remain on or in food after they are applied to food crops.
The Head of Food Laboratory at the GSA, Mr Clifford Frimpong, who disclosed this at a GSA public lecture in Accra on Friday, said a pesticide residue monitoring conducted by the GSA in some regions of the country, indicated that the levels of residue in fruits and vegetables were within accepted international residue limits.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture recently placed a ban on exports of vegetables such as aubergine, momordica and luffa, to Europe because vegetables from Ghana did not meet European Union standards.
The workshop, attended by representatives from the Ministries, Department and Agencies, research institutions, the private sector and the media, was to educate the public on the health impact of improper use of pesticide and herbicides.
Contributing to the discussions, Mr Clifford advised farmers to adopt good agronomic practices in the application of pesticides and herbicides to protect food crops of high pesticide residues.
A Senior Standards Officer at the GSA, Samuel Kofi Frimpong who spoke on the topic, “The effects of pesticide residues on food safety and public health,” said pesticides and herbicide could be harmful to the user if not used properly.
He warned that exposure to pesticide and herbicide could cause a range of health effects such as memory loss, cancer, asthma, a hormone disruption, problem with reproduction and foetal development.
For example, he said the World Health Organisation estimates that about three million pesticide poisoning was recorded annually in developing countries, accounting for 220,000 deaths annually.
Mr Frimpong, therefore, entreated farmers to wear protective clothing before applying pesticide and herbicides on their farms and also advised the public to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with water before eating and avoid eating fish and games from communities prone to improper use of pesticides and herbicides.
A Standards Officer at the Pesticide Residue Laboratory (PRL), Ms Ernestina A. Adeenze, who spoke on the topic “The role of the Pesticide Residue laboratory of the Ghana Standards Authority in ensuring tolerable limits of Pesticide Residue in yam, fruits and vegetables on the Ghanaian market,” said currently the PRL of the GSA conducts tests into 36 crop and vegetable products and plans were underway to seek accreditation to venture into the testing of other crops such as cocoa.
She said the PRL of GSA was established in 2007 with support from the USAID and the World Bank and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture through the Export Marketing and Quality Awareness Project in 2011 constructed a new building for the PRA.
She said the PRL was first accredited in 2009 by DACH, an accreditation body in Germany, in 2014, was re-accredited by to ISO/IEC 17025:2005 by DAkks, also a German National Accreditation Body.
Mr Kobina Acheampong, former staff of GSA, who chaired the programme describe the lecture as very important because “all of us eat fruits and vegetables.”
He cautioned that pesticide used for fruits should not be used for vegetables, since it was against international safety standards.
By Kingsley Asare