Call Us Now

+91 9606900005 / 04

For Enquiry

Controversy Surrounds FSSAI’s Decision to Increase Pesticide Limits


The Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) recently drew criticism from activists and scientists following its decision to raise the maximum residue limit (MRL) of pesticides. The FSSAI order increased the MRL of pesticides allowed in herbs and spices by tenfold, from 0.01 mg/kg to 0.1 mg/kg, sparking concerns over potential health risks and trade implications.


GS III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Issue Regarding the FSSAI Order
  2. What is Pesticide Poisoning?
  3. What is the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)?

Issue Regarding the FSSAI Order

Contradiction with Previous Stance:

  • The recent order by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) contradicts its stance from April 2022.
  • Previously, FSSAI acknowledged the lack of field trial data for most Indian pesticides and advocated using Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) established by Codex Alimentarius.

Deviation in Approach for Spices and Herbs:

  • However, the latest order deviates from this approach specifically for spices and herbs, raising concerns and questions about the rationale behind this decision.

Use of Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs):

  • The maximum residue limit (MRL) of pesticides for food and commodities, including spices and culinary herbs, is specified under the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Regulation, 2011.
  • These limits are based on field trial data received through the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC), Union Ministry of Agriculture and Family Welfare.

Conflict of Interest:

  • One issue is the potential conflict of interest, as the studies providing field trial data are often conducted or sponsored by the pesticide companies themselves.

Lack of Comprehensive Data:

  • Additionally, the Centre’s Monitoring of Pesticide Residues at the National Level (MPRNL) does not test spices and lacks comprehensive data, further complicating the situation.

International Repercussions:

  • Countries with stricter pesticide regulations, such as Europe, have rejected Indian products exceeding their MRLs, leading to recalls of Indian food products containing excessive pesticide residues.
  • For instance, in April 2024, several popular Indian spice firms faced bans in Singapore and Hong Kong due to alleged contamination with the harmful pesticide ‘ethylene oxide’ beyond permissible limits.

What is Pesticide Poisoning?

Definition and Risks:

  • Pesticide poisoning refers to the adverse effects of exposure to pesticides on humans or animals.
  • Pesticides pose serious risks to human health and the environment, especially when misused, overused, or sold illegally.

Regulation in India:

  • Pesticides are regulated under the Insecticides Act, 1968 and the Insecticides Rules, 1971, administered by the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

Types of Pesticides:

  • Insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, bio-pesticides, and others are different types of pesticides used for various purposes in agriculture and beyond.

Health Effects:

  • Pesticide exposure can lead to adverse health effects, including cancer, reproductive issues, and damage to the immune or nervous systems.
  • Acute poisoning occurs from high doses over a short period, while chronic poisoning results from prolonged exposure to lower doses.

Global Impact:

  • Pesticide poisoning is a significant cause of death among agricultural workers worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), highlighting its global impact and importance in regulatory oversight.

What is the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)?


  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is a statutory body established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
  • It operates under the purview of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Legal Framework:

  • Formed under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, which replaced earlier legislation such as the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, the Fruit Products Order, 1955, and the Meat Food Products Order, 1973.


  • FSSAI regulates various aspects of food safety, including the manufacture, storage, distribution, sale, and import of food articles.
  • It establishes standards to ensure the safety and quality of food consumed by the public.


  • The authority consists of 22 members, including a Chairperson, with a requirement that one-third of the members must be women.
  • Regulation Development: FSSAI has the authority to formulate regulations to enforce food safety standards across the country.
  • Lab Accreditation: It establishes guidelines for accrediting food testing laboratories to ensure accurate and reliable testing of food samples.
  • Inspection Authority: Food safety officers appointed by FSSAI have the power to enter and inspect any premises involved in the manufacturing, storage, or display of food products.
  • Research and Development: The Research and Development division conducts research in food safety standards, with a focus on adopting international best practices.
  • Data Collection: FSSAI collects data related to food consumption, contamination, emerging risks, and other relevant factors to inform its regulatory decisions.

Continuous Improvement:

  • FSSAI continuously strives to adopt and implement international food standards to enhance food safety and quality standards in India.

-Source: The Hindu

May 2024