London: Betel or ‘paan’ leaves from India may be the next item to be banned by the European Union (EU), which has already imposed an import ban on Alphonso mangoes over claims of a fruit fly infestation.
The EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) warned in its annual report this week that there have been consistent reports of Salmonella contamination of betel leaves from the country.
The EU had already issued a ban on the import of paan leaves from Bangladesh earlier this year, effective until at least end July.
“The continuing reason since 2011 for the high number of reports on Salmonella is paan leaves. The continuous reports notified by the UK prompted the adoption of a safeguard measure suspending temporarily imports of paan leaves from Bangladesh and setting up reinforced checks for paan leaves from India and Thailand,” the RASFF 2013 annual report said.
Salmonella poisoning causes severe diarrhoea and vomiting in humans.
The RASFF has issued 111 notifications or warnings to India on food contamination last year, out of which 12 concern curry leaves and 84 ‘okra’ or ladyfinger.
“Apart from these findings, also five notifications on chilli peppers are noteworthy with sometimes high levels reported,” the report concluded.
India also came in as the second highest in terms of overall notifications with 257 in total after China’s total of 433.
The EU ban on Alphonso mangoes effective from May 1 had triggered widespread protests, including a petition to the British government to overturn the ban.
EU inspectors are now expected in India for an early inspection of the crop in September.
Other fruits and vegetables banned included Colocasia (taro, eddo) Momordica sp (bitter gourd), Solanum melongena (eggplant) and Trichosanthes sp (snake gourd).
The EU says the decision was taken due to a high number of intercepted consignments containing quarantine pests, which could harm European crops.