New Zealand tests find pesticide residue levels are safe

By George Reynolds

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags New zealand Pesticide

Pesticide residues largely comply with legal limits, according to
the results of food tests conducted by New Zealand Food Safety
Authority (NZFSA) published yesterday.

Glen Neal, assistant director of NZFSA said the results showed that farmers, growers and importers continued to supply safe and suitable food.

"Despite targeting areas where we believed we were most likely to find residues higher than the regulatory limit, we found just one breach in imported food, and a small number in a wide range of tests of New Zealand foods," he said.

"None of these represented any risks to health."

One of the areas studied by the NZFSA was imported seafood from China, which has been subject to widespread concern recently.

Researchers tested 31 canned and frozen products including shrimp, eel, prawns, dace, carp, anchovy, roe, and fish balls and other processed product.

"We found six residues of a class of antimicrobials, known as triphenylmethane dyes, and nine residues (two detects in two samples, both of semicarbazide which can occur naturally) of nitrofuran metabolites," Neal said.

Nitrofurans are a class of antibiotics.

The tests found that even the highest concentration at 0.058 milligrams per kilogram were well below any level that would pose a health risk, while many were very near to the limit of detection, according to the authority.

Samples of imported fresh produce, including mandarins, green beans and tomatoes were also analysed as part of the regular Food Residues Surveillance Programme (FRSP), which were also found to be encouraging, the authority said.

One sample of mandarins had a fungicide imazalil level of 6.1 mg/kg that exceeded the maximum residue level (MRL) of 5.0 mg/kg.

New Zealand food residue results also reflected a generally very high consciousness of food safety in the dairy industry, with almost 100,000 tests over the 2006/07 season finding all residues to be below the relevant limits for more than 250 compounds, natural toxins and chemical elements, according to the authority.

"The dairy industry adheres to very strict controls and requirements, both for export and domestic markets," said Neal.

"Once again, our monitoring shows that the awareness of requirements, and proper processes and procedures is high, and that good agricultural practice is being followed."

However, residue contaminant tests on animal products, including red meat, pigs, broiler chickens, feral animals, farmed animals and ostriches revealed some issues.

Testing was conducted on the tissues, highest accumulation, such as the liver, is likely to occur.

In almost 4500 tests, seven samples that exceeded the New Zealand MRL, but none of these present human health issues, the authority said.

The results for New Zealand found some problems with food regarded to pose higher risks to human health.

Samples of celery, spinach and tomatoes were found to have an unacceptable number of breaches of the relevant standard.

Although NZFSA's risk assessment found that the vegetables would still be safe to eat, it appears that a few growers may not have been taking the care NZFSA expects.

"There are no health concerns with the levels found of these residues," said Neal.

"Our risk assessments show that even big eaters of celery and spinach can be assured of the safety.

The authority said that it had begun providing additional information on the use of chemicals on minor crops, and would be investigating other avenues to ensure that regulatory limits are met by producers.

"However, the results do indicate that the use of agricultural compounds in these crops needs to be improved, and NZFSA is working with the appropriate industry bodies to institute remedial action, with further testing to be conducted.

However, tests on more than 200 agricultural compounds found that most were within MRL limits.

Produce, including onions, plums, wheat, cabbage, pumpkin, green beans, cauliflower, peaches and raspberries, were found to have no residues above the relevant MRLs.

"In conclusion, we are delighted that the vast majority of New Zealand food producers and importers have again shown their commitment to ensuring that New Zealand retains its position as having one of the world's lowest residue levels in its food supply," Neal said.

NZFSA said it would continue its monitoring and control programmes, would continue making these results publicly available, and will develop new measures to target any new areas of concern.

Related topics Food safety

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