Australian scientist warns of “green” food complacency

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 15th October 2009

Australian food producers need to be wary of complacency to ensure the ‘clean and green’ image widely used to market Australian food remains accurate, a leading Australian contaminant scientist has said.

Marking International World Food Day on Oct 16, Managing Director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE), Professor Ravi Naidu, said that, despite excellent food regulation and safeguards in Australia, we and others in industrialised countries face an unprecedented cocktail of toxic substances in our daily lives.

“Today the human body has to deal with a complex array of chemicals arriving via our indoor and outdoor air, in our water supplies, and as residual chemicals in our food supply,” Professor Naidu advised. “At no time in its evolution has the human body had such an onslaught of unfamiliar and toxic substances to deal with.”

“For example, we simply don’t know enough about the rapidly increasing range of nanoparticles being used in the manufacturing sector, or how they will behave in our bodies or affect our health.”

Australian food producers have an enviable global reputation for being clean and green, which helps us compete in international markets, Professor Naidu noted. Indeed, our food safety record is one of the best. However, he added that we are also heavy users of chemicals and fertilisers – not to mention big consumers of fossil fuel per kilogram of food produced.

“We must avoid complacency about the ‘clean and green’ reputation of our foodstuffs,” the Professor warned. “We may not be quite so clean nor quite so green as we like to think.”

“World Food Day ought to be a reminder to us all that our own health, as well as our ability to earn revenue from food exports to a hungry world, depends on the care we take to avoid contamination.”