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Kedgley calls for lead-contaminated inquiry

Kedgley calls for inquiry into lead-contaminated flour

Green MP Sue Kedgley is calling for an inquiry into why 45 tonnes of imported cornflour contaminated with more than 100 times the safe level of lead was allowed into our food supply and how the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) has handled the issue.

“We need to find out whether this contaminated corn is the tip of the iceberg, whether further shiploads have entered the New Zealand food supply and why it is that we do not routinely test such staple food products for heavy metal and pesticide contamination,” said Ms Kedgley, the Green Party Safe Food Spokesperson.

“Finding lead contamination 100 times higher than our legal limits in a staple product like cornflour is an extremely serious breach of our regulations. Given that the Food Safety Authority issued a mandatory recall of 700 dietary supplements earlier this year following the Pan fiasco, when it was not certain there was an actual risk to human health or not, their response to this serious, incontestable food safety scare seems totally inadequate.

“The discovery should have triggered a mandatory recall of all potentially affected products and the public should have been fully informed immediately. Curiously, the Authority has not even issued a media release on this extremely serious food safety breach, or informed the public which food products, other than Robinson’s Egg Custard, the contaminated flour was used in.

“They did issue a media release on 16 July stating that the Total Diet Survey showed the “average New Zealand diet presents no chemical residue concerns.” Since then they have remained completely silent over this major contamination that was discovered during testing for the very same survey, putting the lie to their public relations spin.”

Ms Kedgley said she was dumbfounded by the bland reassurances of Food Safety Authority spokesperson Tim Knox on TV1 last night that such extraordinarily high lead levels “did not pose an immediate threat” to consumers and that long-term exposure was required before it caused health effects.

“Lead is a highly toxic heavy metal which accumulates in the body and can cause irreversible damage to the nervous system and the brain. Children are especially sensitive to the effects of even low levels of lead poisoning, let alone this degree of contamination. How can we have confidence in a regulatory agency that appears so blasé about such a serious breach of food safety?

Ms Kedgley said she wanted questions answered as to what environmental or other factors caused the imported corn to be so seriously contaminated with lead in the first place and whether other food imports could be similarly affected.

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