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Survey supports New Zealand’s safe food reputation

16 July 2004

Total Diet Survey supports New Zealand’s safe food reputation

The third quarter results of the New Zealand Total Diet Survey have been released by NZFSA, and again show that the average New Zealand diet presents no chemical residue concerns.

“The primary focus of the New Zealand Total Diet Survey (TDS) is to assess dietary exposure to chemical residues, contaminant elements and selected nutrients, from approximately 120 representative foods across the average diet of different age/gender groups within New Zealand. It is not a compliance survey. However, if a non-compliance is found, NZFSA always considers if and what future action is appropriate,” said TDS project manager Cherie Flynn.

The third quarter was the second analysis of a wide range of regional foods (those generally produced and sold locally), such as fresh fruit and vegetables and takeaway foods. It looked for elements (both environmental, like lead and cadmium, and nutrients such as iodine, sodium and iron) and residues of agricultural compounds, including herbicides and pesticides.

“There were no health concerns from any of the more than 45,000 analyses, and only three minor issues where results were slightly above the default New Zealand Maximum Residue Level (MRL). It is important to remember that MRLs are not safety limits – which in most cases are many hundreds of times higher than MRLs – but rather are an indicator of good agricultural practice. In each case, there is no health or safety concern at all,” said Mrs Flynn.

“The three results that exceeded the New Zealand default MRL were for the fungicide Ethoxyquin found in chicken nuggets, and pesticides Pirimiphos-methyl found in celery and Procymidone found in capsicum. The use of the compounds was what is known as off-label, meaning that they are registered for use in New Zealand, but not specifically on those crops. Therefore, there is no specific MRL for that compound/crop use and any residue must be lower than the New Zealand default.

“Meeting MRLs is an indication of good agricultural practice, and we are working with the relevant industry groups to ensure that producers are aware of their responsibilities. While none of the results were unexpected in terms of the type of residues found or in the small number of technical non-compliances, we will continue to work towards maintaining or reducing the low residue level in New Zealand foods.

“It is good to see the continuing high standards we have seen in earlier surveys and our surveillance programmes. Once again, NZFSA is very pleased that New Zealand food producers have proven, almost without exception, to have high regard for good agricultural practice and take to heart the need to produce safe food for New Zealanders.”


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