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Fish and chips could be hazardous - Greens

2nd April 2000

Fish and chips could be hazardous - Greens

The Green Party said today a weekly trip to the fish and chip shop could be hazardous to your health, following a report issued by the Ministry of Health this week.

"In the latest Total Diet Survey, samples of Bluff oysters and fish were found to exceed safe legal food limits for cadmium and mercury respectively," said Health spokesperson Sue Kedgley.

The Total Diet Survey (TDS) found high levels of mercury in shark and lemonfish, with samples of battered fish exceeding the legal limit which the Ministry of Health has set as a safety threshold.*

The same report made a recommendation that consumption of oysters should be limited because they contained very high levels of the heavy metal cadmium.**

Ms Kedgley said she was alarmed by the report. "Parents who take their kids to the fish and chip shop every week for a treat don't realise that they may exposing them to unacceptably high levels of toxic metals."

"Predatory fish, such as shark and lemonfish, are commonly used in fish and chip shops, and they are identified as having the highest concentrations of mercury."

"I hope pregnant and breastfeeding women will follow advice from the Ministry of Health, released with the TDS, to select fish like cod and tarakihi which are lower in mercury, as foetuses and infants are most susceptible to high concentrations of mercury," said Ms Kedgley.

Mercury is a serious cumulative toxin that can cause severe disruption of the developing central nervous system, resulting in retarded mental and physical development.

Cadmium is also cumulative and toxic. According to the TDS, cadmium has serious health effects even at low levels, including chronic kidney failure and softening of the bones. It occurs at naturally low levels in the environment, but mining and smelting are often linked to incidents of cadmium pollution.

Bluff oysters have the highest level of cadmium, nearly twice as much as the average oyster.

*NZ food regulations set a legal limit for mercury in food of 0.5 parts per million. The average mercury concentration in battered food tested in the TDS was 0.36 ppm, the highest sample was 0.8 ppm. **NZ food regulations set a legal limit for cadmium of 1 part per million, but shellfish are exempt from this limit. Oysters in the TDS had an average concentration of 4.5 ppm, with Bluff oysters registering 8.2 ppm.

Sue Kedgley MP: 04 384 9123 or 025 270 9088 Gina Dempster, Press secretary: 021 1265 289


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