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India Establishes Glyphosate Residue in Imported Cereal Products

Photo: Cereal
Photo: Cereal

On October 12, 2018, the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) published file no. 1-1771/FSSAI/Imports/2018 requiring the determination of Glyphosate residue in imported cereal products. The data collected by Regional Offices regarding the presence of Glyphosate shall be shared with FSSAI every 15 days.

Glyphosate (N-phosphonomethyl glycine) is one of the most frequently used herbicides in the world. It is used to control a broad spectrum of grasses and broadleaf weed species in agricultural and industrial fields. It rapidly degrades to Aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) and affects the synthesis of aromatic amino acids such as Phenylalanine, Tyrosine, and Tryptophan by blocking the shikimic acid pathway in plants.

As a result of its accumulation in the environment and in edible products, several major concerns have arisen in recent years about the potentially harmful side effects of Glyphosate and its metabolite. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), reclassified Glyphosate as probably carcinogenic to humans [1]. India’s government recognizes that and has set maximum residue levels (MRLs) for Glyphosate in imported cereal products which, for the time being, follow the Codex standard [2] as shown in the table below. Authorized officers are responsible to direct local labs to include Glyphosate determination with other test parameters.

Based on the physicochemical property of Glyphosate, including lack of volatility, high water solubility, low molecular weight, and absence of chromophore, it is difficult for direct analysis by GC or LC techniques with traditional detectors (UV-Vis, fluorescence, Flame ionization). Derivatization step with 9-fluorenylmethyl chloroformate (FMOC-Cl) has been recommended by many researchers, before injection into LC-MS/MS, in order to increase the retention time in the reverse phase column.

What do the changes mean?

This update has the potential to affect farms and food producers. Any imported foods designated for India must not be found to have Glyphosate at levels in excess of the MRLs in the table below. To ensure compliance with food safety regulation, food producers should seek professional advice.

Food commodityMRLs (mg/kg)
Beans (dry)2
Lentil (dry)5
Peas (dry)5
Soy bean (dry)20

Indian maximum residue limits (MRLs) for Glyphosate in foods

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