Residue levels in food remain low: NZ study

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 18th August 2009

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) today released the first quarter results for the Total Diet Study (TDS), discovering that the average diet presents no chemical residue food safety concerns. The five-yearly study tested more than 120 commonly eaten foods to estimate New Zealanders’ dietary exposure to chemical residues, contaminants and selected nutrients.Foods tested for the study are split into two groups – those from the regions and those available nationally. The first quarter tested 61 regional foods from supermarkets and shops in Auckland, Napier, Christchurch and Dunedin in January and February.

“So far, the results are extremely pleasing and reaffirm that residues in food are not a problem in New Zealand,” Project Manager Cherie Flynn said. “From 60,000 analyses, there were just two areas we had another look at.”

One was a non-compliance in tomatoes from Napier, where the pesticide azaconazole was found at slightly above the maximum residue limit of 0.05 mg/kg.

“Maximum residue limits are not safety limits – which are in most cases hundreds of times higher – but rather an indicator of good agricultural practice. The level found in the tomatoes does not pose a food safety or health concern but it does highlight the need for growers to ensure they follow good agricultural practice,” she added.

The other was higher than expected levels of lead in breads from Napier.

“Again, the levels did not pose a health concern. Our assessments showed that even a large daily bread eater would only be exposed to around 10% of the safe weekly intake of lead,” Ms Flynn said. “New Zealand has one of the lowest exposures to lead in the world and it is important we keep it that way. We will be keeping an eye on lead compliance in the next quarter results and, if it seems to be an issue that needs more investigation, we will consider including grains in the next round of the Food Residues Surveillance Programme (FRSP).”

The FRSP is an annual study that assesses the effectiveness of chemical residue controls on imported and locally-produced foods.