Pesticide exceeded levels allowed by country's Department of Health

By RICHARD SMITH

For the Capital Press

A third shipment of California cherries to Taiwan has failed a pesticide test in the past two weeks.

Nearly 1.5 tons of California cherries were blocked from entering Taiwan, the country's Department of Health said June 19. The shipment was found to contain 0.92 parts per million of fenpropathrin, a pesticide that is often used on cherries and pears, which exceeds the 0.5 ppm level Taiwan allows, Central News Agency reported.

The importer can request a second test of the shipment in two weeks time, Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration said. As this was the third such case in two weeks, the FDA said, it has decided to increase the rate of its random checks on U.S. cherries from 5 to 20 percent.

Steven Chu, president of marketing firm Steven Chu Associates which represents the California Cherry Advisory Board, told Capital Press the cherries would either be sent back to the U.S. exporters or destroyed. Steven Chu Associates also represents the California Tree Fruits Agreement, the Pear Bureau Northwest, the Raisin Administrative Committee, the Washington Apple Commission, the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin and the Food Export Association of the Midwest-Northeast USA.

The DOH said it has also written to U.S. authorities to ask them to address the situation. Otherwise, Taiwan will again increase the rate of its random checks on U.S. cherries, CNA reported.

Nearly 6 tons of California cherries shipped to Taiwan were refused two weeks ago because they contained the commonly used pesticide malathion, so the importers sent them to Hong Kong instead.

Chih-Kuan Pan, director of the Taiwan Department of Health, said June 5 the two shipments of cherries contained respectively 0.02 parts per million and 0.03 ppm of malathion. Taiwan's regulations do not allow trace amounts of the substance in cherries, CNA reported.

Pan said that if a third batch of U.S. imported cherries were to fail the examination within six months, the DOH would ask the U.S. to come up with a plan to improve the situation.

"We will also step up the examination of all cherries imported from the United States," he said.

Shu-Jean Tsai, FDA Food Division director, told Capital Press that since Taiwan does not grow cherry trees, the country does not yet have a maximum residue limit for malathion on cherries.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, agribusiness trade observers told Capital Press that basically any pesticide Taiwan does not use is banned.

Tsai said, however, a U.S. company has applied for setting up a residue limit for malathion on cherries. Taiwan's FDA has done the risk assessment and has requested comments from an advisory board.

Upon receiving the board's comments, the FDA will notify the World Trade Organization for comments. Processing the application at the FDA should take one more week, and an additional 50 days at the WTO, Tsai said.

"If there are no more comments, we will officially announce the MRL, and the MRL will take effect," she said.

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