Monday, August 2

‘Quality assurance tagging for veggies’

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KUCHING: Government agencies have been called to introduce a quality assurance tagging system on vegetables at retail level.

Department of Agriculture director Paul Vincent Ritom said currently vegetables are only graded at farms.

“At the moment when we visit the farms, they might conform to all the safety and quality assurance standards but when they go to the market, the consumers will not know the origin of the vegetables so they won’t know whether the vegetables are safe or not,” he said after officiating at a seminar yesterday.

The seminar organised by Sarawak Institute of Agricultural Scientists (SIAS) was themed ‘Towards Pesticide-safe Vegetables for Consumers’.

Paul, who is also SIAS president, said consumers should be aware of the facts regarding pesticides in vegetables.

“If the problem is serious enough, something has to be done. I think educating the public is not alarming them, give them the facts and I hope that the seminar today will be able propose some ways in identifying which agencies are to be involved in public education.”

On the level of pesticide used in the state, he said it was not alarming.

“For Sarawak, there is no cause for alarm but we still need to be wary and monitor the status in the local market, not only from the farms.”

Under the Food Act 1983, only the state Health Department is empowered to prosecute and take legal action in cases where farmers have exceeded the maximum level of pesticide residue.

“Of course the Sarawak Health Department has its own resource constraints. They are taking samples on a regular basis. Perhaps they could be given more resources to take more samples,” he added.

Paul also advised consumers to be wise when consuming vegetables.

“Any business is consumer driven. If consumers always want perfect vegetables all the time and they want it cheaply, then we’re going to have a problem but if the consumers are willing to pay premium, the farmers can produce quality and safe vegetables.”