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Imported produce tested and safe

Imported produce tested and safe

21 August 2006

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) is concerned recent comment in the media that imports of produce may be unsafe is misleading and may cause unnecessary public concern.

Tim Knox, Director (New Zealand Standards), says that NZFSA's testing and surveillance programmes show produce available within New Zealand, both imported and domestically produced, have extremely low levels of chemical residues. New Zealand consumers can continue to confidently enjoy a varied diet of healthful fruit and vegetables, whether the produce is local or imported.

"NZFSA is charged by government with protecting consumer safety, and we take that role very seriously. Under New Zealand law, it is the responsibility of those producing, importing and selling food to ensure that it meets this country's food safety standards. NZFSA operates an imported food programme which includes a thoroughly planned programme of pesticide and environmental contaminant residue monitoring and surveillance. Results are published in full, including the levels of residues found, on the NZFSA website.

"Results from the latest Total Diet Survey, as well as those from previous years, and all results from our Food Residues Surveillance Programme (FRSP) give the food (including fresh, processed and frozen produce) available on the New Zealand market a clean bill of health. The last FRSP looked at a number of foods in depth, including peanuts and pears, some of which came from China. No residues at all were found in the peanuts from any country, and there were no residues detected in any of the pears from China, while there were some (none of any health significance and all below the set regulatory limit) in pears from other countries, including New Zealand. "Further, in cases where there have been incidents overseas, our excellent relationships with our international counterparts have given us no cause to suspect that the affected foods have been sold in New Zealand."

While NZFSA is confident in the safety of the New Zealand food supply, it has been undertaking a major review of the country's imported food regime and improvements have already been made, with others due for implementation over the next 12 months.

"A huge programme of work is underway to strengthen New Zealand's imported food system and includes broadening the risk management framework to take account of assurances and systems in the exporting country, improving information collection and management, conducting a risk profiling programme, and increasing NZFSA monitoring for chemical residues and contaminants through targeted surveillance," says Tim Knox.

"New Zealanders can continue to buy and eat fruit and vegetables whether locally produced or imported, in the knowledge that these foods will be providing them with a healthy, nutritious and safe diet."

ENDS

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