Vegetables are a vital source of various nutritional components like vitamins, minerals, and fibers. According to dietary guidelines, fresh vegetables are highly recommended to be included in routine diet to avoid the risk of chronic disease and to maintain a healthy life pattern (Hu et al., 2016; You, 2015). Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus L.) is a delicious and nutritious vegetable consumed directly for eating in soups and salads or cooked in different ways worldwide. It is the national vegetable of Pakistan and is one of the most important vegetable crops grown in the country (Ali et al., 2012; Sheikh et al., 2012). Pakistan is the 5th largest producer of okra that contributes to 1.3% of the world’s okra production. Pakistan is also exporting surplus okra to various countries including Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia & UAE (GOP, 2019).
Many pests including different species of jassids, aphids, and mites are potential threats to okra crops (Atwal & Dhaliwal, 2015). The most problematic pests of okra are shoot and fruit borers that attack the crop at the fruiting stage (Mishra & Singh, 1996). To cope with all these pests, different kinds of pesticides specifically acetamiprid, bifenthrin, dimethoate, imidacloprid, thiacloprid, and thiamethoxam are recommended and applied in fields to ensure the healthy growth and sound yield (Ali, 2018).
Some studies have assessed the presence of residues of different pesticides in okra. The residues of some organochlorine and organophosphate pesticides have been reported at high concentration in okra samples collected from Punjab, Pakistan using GC-ECD technique (Randhawa et al., 2016; Randhawa et al., 2015). The residues of pyrethroid pesticides in okra samples using GC-µECD from Punjab, Pakistan and their dietary risk have also been reported (Amjad et al., 2019). Pesticides residues in okra as a non-target crop grown close to a watermelon farm have also been reported from Ghana using GC/MS technique (Essumang et al., 2013). Another study has assessed the residues of multi-class pesticides using GC-ECD and associated health risk from dietary intake in okra from Bangladesh (Hossain et al., 2013). However, there are a few studies where state of the art and sensitive equipment like triple quad mass spectrometers have been used. One such study has assessed the residues of seventy-four pesticides in okra samples from India using the both, LC-MS/MS and GC-MS/MS techniques (Ratnamma et al., 2020). Another study has reported residues of several pesticides in okra samples from Sri Lanka using GC-MS/MS technique (Pandipperuma, 2020).
Rejection of multiple okra consignments of other countries have been reported by EU-RASFF (European Union-Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) and US-FDA (United States-Food and Drug Administration) import alert systems in international export regime due to the presence of several pesticides with values higher than prescribed standards ("FDA-Import Alerts," ; "RASFF - Food and Feed Safety Alerts. European Commission.," 2020). If any country is to target these markets then it shall have reliable data on monitoring of pesticides residue in okra.
Objectives of the present study is to verify the standard method of European Union Reference Laboratory for Fruits and Vegetable (EURL-FV. 2010-M1), evaluation of the current status of pesticide residues in market samples of okra in Pakistan and determining their compliance for maximum residues limits (MRL) established by FAO Codex Alimentarius and European Union. Moreover, consumer’s dietary health risk assessment of pesticide residues detected in okra were also evaluated. This study will provide a verified analytical method that can be used as a standard regulatory tool for pesticide residue testing laboratory for the routine testing of pesticides in okra, preliminary data for planned surveillance studies in the country and identify the real problematic pesticides in okra production.