Muscat: Concerned citizens and health experts have urged the authorities to set up a central laboratory in Mawaleh so as to check the fruits and vegetables sold here.
The Mawaleh Central Fruit and Vegetable Market deals in hundreds of tonnes of fruits and vegetables everyday to meet the demands of the domestic market. And, despite the bustling wholesale market, these fruits and vegetables which are sourced from all over the world, are sold to consumers without undergoing purity tests in a central laboratory.
Ahmed Al Balushi, a local, said that many exporters of fruits and vegetables use chemicals to enhance their productivity with a view to making a quick buck. These chemicals are a health hazard and can cause cancer and chronic diseases, if not tested before use.
Another citizen, Naser Al Gafri, urged the authorities to install monitoring devices for detecting chemicals in fruit and vegetables being sold in this market.
Naser also suggested sticking labels on every domestic farm product, including the name and the phone number of the farm, the date of production and expiry.
Juma Al Salmany, a nutrition specialist called for having compulsory minimum organic standards for fruits and vegetables imported. "The quality, shape, taste and chemical pollution levels of every food item should be checked in order to avoid any health risks for the consumers," Juma said, while adding that some fruits and vegetable items in the Mawaleh market are displayed at the shop counters throughout the day and then put back into refrigerators. This leads to damage and loss of its nutrition quality through exposure to different temperatures.
Meanwhile, sources at the Ministry of Health said that the number of cancer cases in Oman is on the rise and kidney problems too have increased during the last six years.
Observers said that cancer cases have doubled in the last few years and blame the increased input of toxic substances and chemical fertilizers in agriculture, apart from the import of contaminated overseas farm products.
However, the authorities claim that adequate measures are taken to monitor health hazards in farm products. An officer at Food Control Department of the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources (MRMWR), said that the department takes random samples from Mawaleh Central Fruit and Vegetable Market and sends them to laboratory in Seeb for checking their quality and toxic levels. "The ministry takes strong action against those who are found violating the regulations as per the law," the officer added.
Research conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture on crops cultivated in some governorates of the Sultanate found out the vegetables and fruits to be fit for the human consumption, an official from the Ministry of Agriculture told Times of Oman.
Studies have shown that chemical pesticides can have far-reaching negative consequences for human health. They can contaminate the quality of surface water and groundwater, as well as cause toxicity in individuals who consume pesticide-sprayed fruits and vegetables.
Since most farmers use these fertilizers on their farms, their livestock receive first-hand exposure to these toxins. This leads to ingesting of pesticide polluted meat products by the consumers.
Agriculture and medical experts believe that pesticide exposure is also linked to other chronic disorders and illnesses, such as endocrine disruptions, behavioural impairments, cancer, reproductive disorders and learning and developmental disabilities.
Health experts have suggested setting up of Central Laboratory for testing fruits and vegetables in markets all over the country. This could drastically improve the quality of vegetables and fruits being consumed by the people.