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27 pesticides in grapes and raisins

27 pesticides in grapes and raisins

Grapes, raisins and sultanas may contain up to 27 different pesticides, according to an analysis carried out by Soil & Health, the Safe Food Campaign and Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa NZ.

Data comes from the just recently released Third Quarterly report from the NZ Food Safety Authority, as well as their earlier First and Second Quarterly reports and their Surveillance Survey. These results were augmented by an independent analysis of grapes carried out by Soil and Health, with the result that data from 22 samples were analysed altogether. Grapes have been analysed for the first time in New Zealand for pesticide residues.

Grapes had 13 different pesticides detected in the latest quarterly report of the Total Diet Survey. Other foods with high numbers of pesticides included celery, cucumber and apples with nine pesticides, and tomatoes, celery, meat pies, muffins and sausages with 7. Nectarines, with five different pesticides scooped the honour of having the highest level of any pesticide present, with 1.8 mg/kg of iprodione. In fact only 9 of the 58 foods analysed had no pesticides and some of those were loaded with heavy metals.

Two pesticides of particular concern detected in the samples of grapes, raisins, sultanas, nectarines and strawberries were the fungicides iprodione and the dithiocarbamates. Iprodione, also found in New Zealand infant weaning food, is a suspect 'gender-bender' or hormone disruptor and also a carcinogen. The dithiocarbamates, found in most of the fruit and vegetables analysed for them (17 out of 25), break down to form ethylene thiourea, which is a known hormone disruptor, and may cause cancer, birth defects and genetic damage.

Ms White, Co-convenor of the Safe Food Campaign, maintains: "Recent research, questions whether any safe level can be established for hormone disruptors, especially when we consider young children and babies in the womb." She further commented that the best way of avoiding these questionable residues is to get organic food, especially fruit, salad vegetables and raisins.

"What should be the healthiest foods in our diet have an unacceptable level of contamination", said Dr Meriel Watts, coordinator of Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa NZ, commenting on the discovery that oranges are the only fruit or vegetable to be clear of pesticide residues. "A number of fruits and vegetables also had the highest levels of multiple residues, raising concerns about the increased toxicity due to interactions between the chemicals."

Steffan Browning, Co-Chair of Soil & Health, questions the "spin" in the Food Safety Authority's conclusion that current residues are of no concern, yet the Environmental Risk Management Authority and Ministry for the Environment are both interested in pesticide reduction. "Serious pesticide reduction will only come with improved support for organic research, taking out the best of organic production and mainstreaming the technologies", said Mr Browning, "Meantime Organic NZ will be publishing further tests and analysis."

Soil & Health, the Safe Food Campaign and Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa NZ are calling on the Government to do more to support New Zealand farmers and growers in finding alternatives to risky chemical pesticides and to reduce pesticide residues in food.

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