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Pesticide Usage In New Zealand Well Below Compliance Safety Guidance

A survey released today confirms that the Kiwi diet is safe and that any pesticide residues on food are extremely low, far below recommended safety levels.

The Ministry for Primary Industries released results of the Food Residues Survey Programme which tests for residues in plant-based foods. The survey collected 591 fruit and vegetable samples over two years and shows compliance of greater than 99.9%. The survey tests residues from commonly used agrichemicals: insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides.

“These results are unsurprising,” says Agcarm chief executive, Mark Ross. “Agcarm members work hard to satisfy the stringent requirements set by regulators. They also work with food chain partners to achieve the lowest possible residues in food.”

A total of 591 samples were collected and analysed for more than 500 agrichemicals and their metabolites. Food safety risk assessments did not find any risk from dietary exposure.

“These results show that all plant-based foods available to all New Zealanders are safe to eat,” says Ross.

A total of 49 out of 311,469 results reported exceeded the relevant Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) for the samples collected from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2019. A number of these cases were due to the grower not understanding revised MRLs or using products off label. Agcarm recommends that growers regularly review MRLs and label changes. Minor crop producers have the challenge of finding the appropriate application rates and withholding period that will ensure compliance with the default New Zealand MRL of 0.1 mg per kg.

Agcarm encourages growers to work with their agrichemical suppliers and seek advice from field representatives on the correct practices for chemicals used on crops.

Ross says that while the residues are very low, and still within safe amounts to eat, it is a wake-up call to a small minority of growers.

“The manufacturers’ instructions on the label are there for good reason. When these instructions are followed correctly it ensures the food we eat is as safe as possible.”

Ross said agrichemicals are a vital part of New Zealand’s food producing industry, protecting crops from devastating pests. “We must also continue to follow good agricultural practice to meet the ever-increasing consumer demands for safe food,” says Ross.

The Food Residues Survey Programme Final Report can be found on the MPI website, at: https://www.mpi.govt.nz/dmsdocument/40274-2017-2019-plant-based-foods-survey-final-report

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