Contaminants in imported fruits: No system to test

By Sarah Hannan

The Ministry of Agriculture is yet to act on the recommendations that were presented through a report in 2017, on implementing a mechanism to evaluate the presence of heavy metals and carcinogens in imported fruits, The Sunday Morning learnt.

Former Chairman of the Institute of Post Harvest Technology Kavinda Dissanayake revealed that during his tenure, a report was submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture after taking 500 such samples and indicating the presence of heavy metals and carcinogens in imported commodities.

“The aim of the report was not to hinder any businesses but to ensure that the citizens of this country were not fed fruits that had harmful contaminants. At the time, we urged the Government to set up a testing mechanism where an analysis report was to be done at the port of export and when it arrived in Sri Lanka, another analysis was to be carried out before it was cleared by Customs,” Dissanayake noted.

Most of these heavy metals and carcinogens were present in imported fruits and when the analysis was carried out on local produce, the institute had found out that only the Jaffna grapes had a high concentration of heavy metal in them.

He pointed out that most often, imported fruits such as apples, oranges, and mandarins are given to ailing people or toddlers.

Dissanayake therefore stressed the importance of implementing such a mechanism to ensure that the fruits given for their nutrition are in fact not full of contaminants.

When The Sunday Morning contacted the Ministry of Agriculture’s Agri-Technology Division, the officers were unable to respond to the queries on the next steps that the Ministry would be taking, stating that they were unable to provide an answer on a report that was done in 2017.