Anvisa suspends pesticide testing in food for more than two years

As of 2020, Brazilians do not know how much pesticide residue is in apples, oranges, tomatoes, peppers and other foods sold at fairs and supermarkets across the country. This is because the Federal Government’s main monitoring program has not disclosed the results of collections since the inception of the Jair Bolsonaro (PL) government. The final publication was made in 2019 exactly from samples collected in 2017 and 2018.

The Program for the Analysis of Pesticide Residues in Food (PARA), established in 2001, has published seven reports. “Monitoring becomes mandatory as the government itself evaluates and authorizes pesticides, substances that pose a threat to human health. [O programa] It’s what makes it possible to know what happens, what’s contaminated, and in what proportion after a particular pesticide is released,” says Luiz Cláudio Meirelles, a researcher at the Fiocruz National School of Public Health and also one of the founders of PARA, when he was director of toxicology at Anvisa.

Sellers at the Ceilândia Fair process tomatoes
Anvisa stopped collecting food to test for the presence of pesticides in 2020

In August 2020, Anvisa announced that collections would be temporarily suspended due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The results of the collections made in the second half cycle of 2018 and 2019 were not disclosed, and no new collections were made to evaluate the fruits and vegetables consumed by the population as of 2020. The agency, through its press office, said that the report, which includes 2018 and 2019 data, is scheduled to be published in the second half of this year. Regarding the new collections, the advisory board replied, “Preparatory work continues for the collection and analysis of samples from the second half of 2022.”

Judging by the result of the last raid. State agency to Correspondent Brazil and found that oranges, peppers and guava were the main foods with pesticides above the limit. Eight out of ten peppers had pesticides prohibited or above the permitted level, while 42% of guava samples, 39% of carrots and 35% of tomatoes tested were incompatible. The last edition of the program had 14 fruits and vegetables analyzed, and samples were collected between August 2017 and June 2018, before the start of the Jair Bolsonaro government, which holds the historical record for pesticide release.

Banned pesticides or foods above the limit in the report published in 2019

Brazil has received an average of 500 new product approvals annually in recent years, as shown in a report by the Friends of the Earth organization written by researchers Larissa Mies Bombardi and Audrey Changoe. “Although the government has asked Anvisa to accelerate the registration of new pesticides, it does not maintain programs like PARA,” notes Fran Paula, an agronomist and member of the National Agroecology Articulation (ANA). In his view, the Agency’s role in assuring the health of the Brazilian population would be distorted to act at the service of the chemical industries. “The program is an example of this attack and an attempt by the Agency to change its focus of action,” she says.

Anvisa’s performance with regards to pesticides is a favorite of PL 6,299, the so-called “Poison Pack”. The bill, which is being discussed in the Senate, envisages that the responsibility for the approval of new products and de-authorization of Anvisa and Ibama will be concentrated in the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (Mapa). Currently, a new pesticide needs to be approved by three bodies to be registered in the country. Luiz Cláudio Meirelles analyzes that the approval of PL 6,299 will mean the end of Anvisa’s Program for the Analysis of Agrochemical Residues in Food. “If you take away the competence of your health [para registro de agrotóxicos]“The agency will hardly prioritize the Program,” he says. Meirelles assesses that there has been a deterioration in the area where pesticides-related issues are being addressed.

Picture shows red and green apples displayed in the basket
Lack of monitoring prevents Brazilians from knowing how much pesticide residue is in food

Brazil has no other regular pesticide impact programs, criticizes researcher

The first PARA report, published by Anvisa, included information on the amount of pesticides in food between 2001 and 2007, and stated that the program will be implemented gradually due to infrastructure (such as the scarcity of public laboratories conducting the analysis) and the program. articulation with state public oversight. The next three reports were annual (2008, 2009 and 2010). It then condensed the years unevenly, with reports tracking samples from 2011 and 2012, and then 2013 to 2015.

For ANA member Fran Paula, the fluctuation in the announced periods was already showing that the program was disrupted. “It conveyed the feeling that everything is fine, that you don’t have to watch the food anymore,” she says.

In response to the report, Anvisa’s press office informed that “the decision on the time period to be announced depends primarily on obtaining and combining all results of the analyzed samples, as well as taking into account the context of the execution of the Programme”.

The former manager of Anvisa remembers that even when executed, the program would be inefficient because it only watches natura foods. “[O governo] “In addition to water, we will have to monitor processed foods of animal origin to get a better idea of ​​the contamination levels of pesticides in a country that is a champion in the use of poisons.” Such monitoring is not systematically done or disclosed by the Brazilian government, but there are attempts to investigate and disclose the circumstances. An example is the Water Map published by. State agency to Correspondent BrazilThis reveals publicly available data showing pesticides in tap water in many cities across the country. Another example is research conducted by Idec that found pesticides in 60% of ultra-processed foods such as tubes, crackers and milk drinks.

In addition to MONEY run by Anvisa, Mapa also monitors pesticide residues in food. “There is a big difference because MONEY [Programa da Anvisa] He is the only one who analyzes pesticide residues in the food that goes to the table of the population on the supermarket shelf. The Mapa program collects samples in the production area”, comments Fran Paula. “There is a long way to go between the place of production and consumption. For example, an orange produced in Rio Grande do Sul may take five or six days to reach Mato Grosso and may even have more chemical product applications. Therefore, it is necessary to consider that there is a difference between the programs and their aims.”

Vegetables and vegetables, lettuce, garlic, cucumber, etc.  It is displayed in a basket at a market stall.
PARA is the only organization that analyzes pesticide residues in food that goes to the table of the population.

Anvisa changes tone in statement on pesticides in food in latest report

Significant changes have already been criticized in Anvisa’s latest survey in 2019. “Vegetable foods are safe,” the report said in an optimistic tone. Anvisa evaluated for the first time the potential for chronic (long-term) health risks in addition to acute (short-term) risk. For this, we used data on the average amount of each food that Brazilians consume and the weight of consumers from the age of 10, i.e. the risk for children aged zero to 10 years is ignored.

Regarding chronic risks, the document states that “No situation has been identified that poses a potential risk to the health of consumers”. The report identified acute risk in only 0.89% of the samples, that is, in 41 fruit and vegetable samples. Of these, 27 were oranges. The document did not make explicit the information highlighted in the publication of previous reports.

The report, for example, did not highlight the information that for every 14 oranges sold in markets, one person had enough pesticides to cause immediate poisoning. The five oranges analyzed had more than five times the exposure safety limit for the pesticide carbofuran, an insecticide banned in Brazil since 2017 because it damages the nervous system, such as the death of neurons.

An independent analysis of this same report conducted by the Fiocruz Pesticides Working Group shows that pesticide mixtures ranging from two to 21 different types of active ingredients were identified in 34% of the samples. “Once the methodology that sets the acute reference dose as a parameter changes, it’s over! Of course, there won’t be a bit of pesticide residue that has such an acute effect on someone – only in very rare cases. But that’s not what matters in the toxicological evaluation of residues, because in their minds no one wants to eat lettuce with 15 different types of pesticides,” Meirelles concludes.

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