Australia’s “South Asian groceries” do badly on contamination, SBS report
Prompted by listener concerns, SBS Radio’s Punjabi program commissioned laboratory testing of those imported foods being sold predominantly by South Asian grocers in Australia.
Most alarming was the discovery of chemical contaminations in many of these imported foods: sometimes with substances not permitted in foods sold in Australia; and sometimes simply in proportions that exceed the statutory limits set by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
The SBS investigation also revealed deceptive practices such as re-labelling, and even the falsification of use-by dates – sometimes by periods of years.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) monitors imported foods for high or medium risks to health.
However, with the exception of some prescribed categories of high risk foods, the other imported foods are inspected only by random selection at a rate of 5 per cent which CSIRO food scientist Dr Kamal Vilkhu told SBS is insufficient to obtain a good representation of the results.”
Some of the contaminants found included pesticides such as DDT and arsenic and lead. One of the pesticides, Buprofezin, is banned in Australia – but it was found in imported rice.
The DDT contamination was within FSANZ limits but some experts believe that even consuming a small amount may be harmful due to its multi-generational genetic impact on human DNA.
The investigation found Betel nut, a seed banned in Australia due to its carcinogenic properties, is readily available at some South Asian groceries in Melbourne. The Australian Drug Foundation has advised that there is “no safe level of drug use” for Betel Nut.