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MANHATTAN -- A Kansas State University analytical chemist wants to scrub the persistent problem of too-high pesticide residues on Central American fruits and vegetables shipped to the United States.
"As a group, the Central American countries have had trouble with high levels of pesticide residues," said Cliff Meloan, chemistry professor emeritus. "The U.S. inspectors, who use more sophisticated analytical techniques, pick up residues the local in- spectors are not detecting."
In 1992 a group of Central American nations asked for training assistance from the Agency for International Development. USAID agreed to provide training to improve analytical capabilities and teach better techniques to the inspectors. But there were no suitable instructional materials.
Meloan, analytical chemist, teacher, and science adviser to the Food and Drug Administration for 28 years, was asked to write the training materials, and he received a $180,000 two-year grant from USAID for the project. Co-sponsors with USAID are the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.
Meloan is now the editor of a 500-page "how-to" manual designed to retrain international food inspectors to use the more sophisticated analytical methods in their work.
"Pesticides Laboratory Training Manual" was published in July 1996 by the Association of Official Analytical Chemists, International.
What editor Meloan and the scientific collaborators have compiled is a nuts and bolts, "street smart" guide to detecting pesticide residues on many foods.
The training manual describes analytical procedures for doing multiresidue analysis for pesticides at the part-per-billion level and above, the backbone of present-day residue analytical methods, Meloan explained.
"If this manual is going to be any help to people, it had to be as practical as we could make it, and presented in a way people could understand," he said.
"To me, that means if an American chemist or inspector knows from experience that to get consistent results with a certain piece of analytical equipment you shake it four times and hit it three times, then we need to tell people: be sure to shake it four times and hit it three times," Meloan said. "Make it street-smart."
The manual covers procedures for handling raw and processed vegetables and fruits, grains, milk and milk products, eggs and egg products, fish and shellfish, and even animal feeds, which can be a source of pesticide residue contamination of the animal products.
It explains proper procedures for collecting, preparing and analyzing samples; basic instrumentation and how to maintain the instruments; identifying chemical compounds; and quality control and assurance.
A draft version of the manual got a test run in 1995 when 13 representatives of national labs in seven Central American nations completed a three-week pilot course at FDA labs in Dallas. By using a "train the trainer" approach, Meloan explained, the upper-level managers first master the materials and then they'll train their personnel back home.
The national labs reps called for "almost no revisions," Meloan said. "They didn't even object to doing the worksheets and homework."
The manual is dedicated to the American taxpayer, "Who doesn't always understand why a project is done, but who trusts us to do it well."
Editor Meloan has twice been selected as an Outstanding Educator in America. In 1995 he was named the first recipient of K-State's Distinguished Teaching Chair.
The five scientific contributors to the "Pesticides Laboratory Training Manual" are John Weatherwax, a former FDA lab director, now a pesticide residue consultant to FAO/WHO; George Miller, retired from FDA after 30 years as analytical residue chemist, now an international pesticide residue program consultant; Gerald Roach, a former FDA chemist who supervised the start-up of the FDA Denver Veterinary Analytical section, which services the agency regarding drug and pesticide residues in feeds and meat; Kenneth Griffitt, who was with FDA for 31 years, and for 18 was the lead pesticide chemist with the FDA's Total Diet Program; and Marvin Hopper, who has been a pesticide residue chemist for more than 25 years and developed or modified many of the residue methods now use in the Total Diet Study.
"Pesticides Laboratory Training Manual" is available from the Association of Official Analytical Chemists, International, Gaithersburg, Md., for $84 in North America and $104 outside North America.
Prepared by Kay Garrett, office of research and sponsored programs.For more information contact Meloan at (913) 532-6682.
Association of Official Analytical Chemists,
International, 481 N. Frederick Avenue, Suite 500,
Gaithersburg, MD 20877-2417, phone (301) 924-7077,