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Medical Researchers Warn of Pesticide Residue on Thai Fruit and Vegetables

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BANGKOK – Some fruit and vegetables in Thailand contain high levels of pesticide, a medical researcher at a leading university has warned, while the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives have singled out six items containing high levels of chemical residue.

The six items containing high levels of chemical residue were chili, tomato, long bean, egg plant and Chinese kale, according to research from the ministries. Everyday items with low levels of residue included guava, mangosteen, asparagus, Chinese cabbage, common bean and corn.

The side-effects from eating fruit or vegetables carrying heavy doses of chemical residue are headaches and nausea.

Dr Teerawat Hemachuta, the head of the Information Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at Chulalongkorn University, said that 60% of the chemical residue found on fruit and vegetables cannot be washed off and only 10% of all agricultural chemicals can be detected in a laboratory.

The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives on Monday reported the results of research on chemical residue on 48 kinds of fruit and vegetables. Six fruit and vegetables had high levels of chemical residue – chili, tomato, long bean, egg plant and Chinese kale. However, the ministries reported that if consumers eat less than 400 grams per day it would not be harmful.

Chemicals usually used as spray on fruit and vegetables were pesticide, paraquat, atrazin, fungicide and rodenticides.

According to Dr Teerawat, some of the things about chemical residue that are not widely known is that 60% of it cannot be wash off. There are also 280 types of pesticide registered in Thailand, but only 10% can be detected in a laboratory, he said.

He added that government claims it will be inspecting 400 types of pesticide is a myth. He said official statements that fruit and vegetables with high levels of chemicals were safe was unacceptable.

Dr. Teerawat called for more stringent checks on the chemicals being allowed to be used by farmers.

Meanwhile, the ministries have put out guidelines and a video on the correct ways to clean chemical residue from fruit and vegetables:

  1. Wash with potassium permanganate, which will remove 20-30% of chemicals.
  2. Wash with vinegar to remove 30-40%.
  3. Wash with baking soda to remove 30-40%
  4. Wash with running water to remove 60-70%