Now, detecting heavy metals in meals, water turns into simple


Manav Mander

Today News Online Service

Ludhiana, March 25

Matter of food security has become a global issue since heavy metal pollution has been known to cause serious health hazards. Heavy metal contamination in soil and water has been a matter of concern for some time now and its detection a is an important step toward food security.

Now, detection of heavy metals in food and water has been made easy in the state with the setting up of Quality Control Laboratory at Punjab Horticultural Postharvest Technology Centre (PHPTC), Punjab Agricultural University.

This laboratory is equipped with inductive coupled plasma mass spectrophotometer (ICP-MS), microwave digestion system (MDS) and ultra-water purification system. Testing is open for government institutions, departments, farmers and private institutions and industries as well.

Four heavy metals, namely lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury, are of particular concern in the food. Ingestion of such metals from food and water is a major route of exposure for the general population.

“In order to protect human health, it is necessary to control the levels of these toxic metals in foodstuffs by detecting them at the right stage,” said Dr BVC Mahajan, director of the centre.

“Funded by the Punjab Mandi Board, the laboratory provides testing services to farmers, entrepreneurs, government and private institutions. The rates for government institutes, departments, farmers and students is subsidised. With increasing human awareness for food safety and stringent norms of regulatory bodies for food testing, there is a need of authenticated laboratories for providing such services. This laboratory carries out tests for heavy metals in water and variety of food products for compliance with the requirements laid down by the FSSAI under the Food Safety and Standards Act,” Dr Mahajan added.

Other testing services such as estimation of quality attributes in fresh and processed food products, portability of water including biochemical and microbiological parameters are also available. Besides, training programme for farmers and entrepreneurs are also organised on post-harvest management, food safety, value addition and quality assurance of horticultural produce.

Dr Ritu Tandon, chemist and in charge of the laboratory, said increased industrialisation and urbanisation in Punjab had led to groundwater pollution with heavy metal contaminants such as lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, arsenic and selenium.

“These heavy metals beyond certain limits may affect human health. ICP-MS is a highly sensitive and accurate instrument for analysing all heavy metals and other nutritional elements in food,” she added.

The detailed list of test parameters and their charges can be accessed on website of the PHPTC (www.phptc.org).

Lab and testing

  • Quality Control Laboratory is equipped with inductive coupled plasma mass spectrophotometer, microwave digestion system and ultra-water purification system
  • Testing is open for government institutions, departments, farmers and private institutions and industries as well
  • Testing services, such as estimation of quality attributes in fresh and processed food products, portability of water are also available
  • Lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury are of particular concern in the food. Ingestion of such metals is a major route of exposure for the general population



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