Controversy
Ethion is a pesticide, traces of which have been found in trace amounts in certain food products in the country.
Image for representation.

A petition has been filed in the Kerala High Court seeking a ban curry powder which was found to have traces of the pesticide ethion, a known carcinogen.

Leonard John, who filed the petition, referred to a news report which claimed that most of the curry powder manufactured in the state was tainted with ethion. According to reports, tests at Kerala’s Agricultural University in Vellayani found that upto 86 percent of chili powder samples contained the pesticide.

The chemical ethion is dangerous to humans. Whether through ingestion or contact via the skin, or even inhalation, it has been known to cause harmful effects. In small doses, exposure to ethion can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, headache, or nausea. In larger doses, poisoning from ethion can lead to loss of reflexes, slurring of speech, muscles contractions which are involuntary in nature and in extremely hazardous cases may even result in cardiac or respiratory failure.

In a similar incident, high levels of a banned pesticide were found in spices and condiments in May 2017. A team of experts from the Kerala Agricultural University had taken samples of vegetables, fruits, spices and other condiments from local vegetable shops, markets and grocery stories as well as from organic shops in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Idukki, Pathanamthitta and Thrissur. High levels of profenofos and methyl parathion were found in several samples of dry ginger and cardamom.

30 samples of 13 spices and masalas were found to be safe while 25 samples of 12 others were found to be contaminated.  

The samples were collected for months from January to May 2017 and tested. Experts on the team also stated that government intervention and action was needed to ensure that all consumables were safe.

The current petition to the High Court of Kerala states that the presence of ethion in these products may lead to cancer, kidney disease, growth abnormality in children and that it also has harmful effects on pregnant women.