Pesticide Residue Interpretation
Number VII: Pesticide Residues Interpretation under NPOP, Govt. of India and NOP
Establish clear rules for pesticide testing of organic food and handling of test re-sults, thus increasing consumer trust in organic products.
NPOP notes residue testing as a major instrument in organic certification provided a competent laboratory does it. Though the standard clearly establishes the requirements of the laboratories, residue handling has not been not been dealt in detail.
NOP establishes clear rules for handling pesticide residues. It is commonly understood that legal requirements for organic food need to be consistent only with general food laws i.e. maximum residue levels (MRL).
This, however, leaves a wide margin of interpretation, since residue levels found between zero and MRL need to be subject to a judgement, whether the product was obtained in conformity with the rules of organic production. Ubiquitous con-tamination and intake from natural sources, contamination from neighbouring ag-ricultural or non-agricultural activities, contamination from materials brought in to the organic system are examples of sources for non intentional and often not ma-nageable contamination of organic products. From a regulatory point of view, only a case-by-case evaluation may lead to a justified certification decision, whether the product can be certified as in conformity or not. Straightforward application of simple residue limit rules, particularly of a zero-limit rule, clearly is not in consis-tency with the above-mentioned standards for organic products. This policy tries to establish clear and differentiated rules, aiming at meeting consumers’ expecta-tions for organic products.
Normative framework :
Chapter 4 B 8.5 Analysis and Residue Testing
Testing is a major instrument for organic certification, provided it is done by competent institutions accredited as per ISO 17025 having appropriate facilities for quality testing.
After evaluation of the laboratories, the NAB would authorize the labs for residue testing of the soil, organic products and organic inputs. The testing laboratory shall have operating manuals and procedures for residue testing of pesticides, heavy metals and other prohibited substances.
The Inspection and Certification Agencies shall have documented policies and procedures on residue testing, genetic testing and other analysis. These policies, must, interalia, include:
- Identification of cases in which samples shall be taken for analysis where, use of a substance prohibited by the standards, is suspected.
- Indication of any random sampling requirements.
- Instructions to the inspectors on sampling requirements and methods.
- Post-sampling procedures.
- fixation of responsibility for payment of sampling.
§ 205.504: A private or State entity seeking accreditation as a certifying agent must submit..
(6) A copy of the procedures to be used for sampling and residue testing pursuant to § 205.670.
205.670 (b) : The … certifying agent may require pre-harvest or post-harvest testing of any agricultural input used or agricultural product to be sold, labelled, or re-presented as “100 percent organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic (specified ingredients)” when there is reasonable cause to believe that the agricultural input or product has come into contact with a prohibited substance. Such tests must be conducted by … the certifying agent at the … certifying agent‘s own expense.
(c) The pre-harvest or postharvest tissue test sample collection pursuant to para-graph (b) of this section must be performed by an inspector representing the Ad-ministrator, certifying agent, or applicable State program‘s governing State official. Sample integrity must be maintained in transit, and residue testing must be per-formed in an accredited laboratory. Chemical analysis must be made in accordance with the methods described in the 16th edition of the Official Methods of Analysis of the AOAC International or other applicable validated methodology determining the presence of contaminants in agricultural products. (d) Results of all analyses and tests performed under this section: (1) Must be provided to the Administrator promptly upon receipt; and (2) Will be available for public access, unless the testing is part of an ongoing compliance investigation.
§ 205.671 Exclusion from organic sale.
(a) When residue testing detects prohibited substances at levels that are greater than the estimated national mean of detected residues for specific commodity/ pesticide pairs, as demonstrated by USDA‘s Pesticide Data Program, or unavoidable residual environmental contamination, as determined by the Administrator, the agricultural product must not be sold, labelled, or represented as organically produced. The … certifying agent may conduct an investigation of the certified operation to determine the cause of the prohibited substance residue.
(b) If test results indicate a specific agricultural product contains pesticide residues or environmental contaminants that exceed the Food and Drug Administration‘s or the Environmental Protection Agency‘s regulatory tolerances, the data must be reported promptly to the appropriate public health agencies.
Terms, clarifications, abbreviations :
Fresh matter calculation
In accordance with general food laws, levels, as indicated in test reports, shall be calculated as fresh matter of the product/crop, by considering appropriate processing coefficients. Applicable processing mainly refers to all kind of concentration during processing, such as drying, extraction or pressing.
Examples: tested residues of 0.05 mg/kg in dried apricots equal to 0.01 mg/kg in the fresh apricot matter, tested level of 0.04 mg/kg in dried tea equals 0.01 mg/kg in fresh tea matter.
Exception: This rule does not apply for test results, which clearly suggest contamination after harvest.
For levels below 0.1 mg/kg after fresh matter calculation, a measurement insecurity of normally 60% needs to be subtracted. Accredited laboratories need to indicate the applicable measurement insecurity in test reports.
Example: 0.05 mg/kg found in fresh apricots could, in the best of all cases, mean that the real level is only around 0.02 mg/kg (although, in the worst case, the real level could also be around 0.08 mg/kg). So the lowest possible value will be considered.
MRL Maximum residue level, as established by national food law for conventional food.
DL: Detection limit, as given by an accredited high quality laboratory for the re-spective substance.
This policy rules for raw materials and processed products and the producer, processor, and wholesale level, not for multi-ingredient products, nor for products, which have already been distributed at the retail level. For NOP, the procedure established in § 205.671 will be implemented.
MRL remain terms of reference for certification of organic products, especially limits set in this guide cannot be higher than official MRL or other official regulations set higher standards than those described here, obviously the official standard will be valid.
Residues between detection level (DL) and MRL:
|Level of residues AFTER cal-culation to fresh matter and measurement insecurity||Action to be taken|
|Between DL and 0.01 mg/kg (or slightly above DL, if this is above 0.01 mg/kg)||No action, the product may be certified and can be sold as organic. Levels below detection level or 0.01 mg/kg are regarded as analytical zero tolerance level.|
|0.01 ≤ level ≤ 0.025 mg/kg for harvest products0.01 ≤ level ≤ 0.05 mg/kg for vegetative matter of the crop (―leaf sample‖)||Improvement actions: the operator and the inspector both shall inform about potential sources of contamination. The operator shall inform about corrective measures that will be taken.Sanction: The product in the meantime remains certified and can be sold as organic.|
|0.025 ≤ level ≤ 0.1 mg/kg for harvest products0.05 ≤ level ≤ 0.1 mg/kg for vegetative matter of the crop (―leaf sample‖)||Improvement actions: the operator and the inspector both shall inform about potential sources of contamination. The operator shall inform about corrective measures that will be taken.
Counter or additional analysis may be required by the operator. ADITI may require additional inspection.
Sanction: The product lot (=all product traceable to the same origin as the tested lot) in the meantime is suspended from certification and cannot be sold as organic. The final certification decision takes into consideration all relevant test results also from the previous years, inspection report findings and all findings from the investigation of the case.
For leaf samples the certification decision depends on further inspection
Combinations of more than one pesticide :
- For each pesticide found, the above mentioned levels must be complied with.
- levels may be tolerated. However, the total maximum must not exceed 0.1 mg/kg after calculation to fresh matter and measurement insecurity.
- A range of more than 4 pesticides found, may serve as an example for a good reason for either suspension or de-certification depending on the amounts and nature of substances found.
Systematic contamination :
In case that a series of test results show systematic contamination at 0.01 ≤ level ≤ 0.025 mg/kg in harvest products, it must be assumed that production methods or location of fields are not appro priate for organic production. In these cases, the operator shall improve selection of fields and pre ventive measures before such lots can be certified (if a series of test results show systematic con tamination at levels beyond 0.025 mg/kg, the case has to be treated “normally” according to the ta ble above).
For plant products belonging to Brassicaceae and Liliaceae all mentioned levels need to be doubled, because those crops accumulate organic sulphur, which during testing is wrongly detected as dithiocarbamates.
For all other crops, the double levels also apply in case of dithiocarbamates, but will finally only be considered, if contamination analysis does not show any intentional application or neglect of pre-ventive actions.
Maximum level 5mg/kg, higher levels may be accepted in case of evidence of high bromide levels in natural sources related to the crop.
Pesticides respectively Pesticide Groups to be Analyzed per Product Group