NZFSA releases Total Diet Survey and other residue monitoring programme results

26 April 2004

New Zealand’s food supply has been confirmed as being among the very safest in the world.

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) has today released completed results of its 2002/2003 monitoring of chemical residue status of New Zealand’s food supply, including the second quarter of the Total Diet Survey, and the Animal Products Residue Monitoring Programme and Dairy Monitoring Programme.

The monitoring programmes have covered a comprehensive range of common New Zealand foods, both at the production stage and at the point of sale to consumers.

“The news for New Zealand is excellent,” said Dr Andrew McKenzie, NZFSA Executive Director. “Of the 117,340 tests, there were just 9 results where residues over the maximum residue limit (MRL) were detected. This means that 99.9934% of results met or bettered the regulatory agricultural compound residue requirements.

“In reality, this figure is probably even higher because the animal samples tested were tissues and samples expected to have the highest concentration of residues. Many of these are not generally food products, including urine, liver and other organs and fluids. The other point to note is that MRLs are not safety levels and there are big margins of safety built into them.

“99.9877% of veterinary medicine test results were below the relevant MRLs, and the four (of 32,528) that were above were of no public health concern. Two were anticoccidial compounds just slightly above the MRLs.

“The other two were bobby calves tested after interception for veterinary inspection. They did not enter, and would not have entered, the food chain. However, they were sampled in order to provide a complete picture of what is occurring on the farm to ensure that we are monitoring good agricultural practice.

“For environmental contaminants in animal products, 99.964% were below the regulatory threshold. Of the three that weren’t (from 8228 tests) one was brodifacoum in a feral pig. The other two were of beta HCCH, a contaminant of the now disused pesticide lindane. Both of these results were also just above the MRL.

“NZFSA investigates any MRL breach and takes further action in these cases.

“The Dairy Chemical Contaminants Programme found no residues in any of the 80 compounds tested for in 18,800 tests between August 2002 and February 2004,” said Dr McKenzie.

Results of the second quarter of the New Zealand Total Diet Survey were also released today. The Total Diet Survey is a regular survey programme looking at dietary exposure over time and is not specifically for compliance monitoring, unlike the other programmes.

There was only one result of concern from the Total Diet Survey.

 “One of the tests for nutrient elements (such as iron, sodium and iodine) raised concern,” said Dr McKenzie.

“A soy milk product line that used kelp as flavouring had high levels of iodine. However, proper procedures were followed and the relevant overseas authority alerted, which then dealt with the issue. The manufacturer immediately ceased production and re-formulated the product line.

“There have also been no reports of adverse effects.  However, if people are concerned about the amount of kelp they have been consuming in their diet, they should consult their doctor. Having been alerted to the potential problem of kelp as an ingredient, and associated high iodine levels, NZFSA is conducting further work in this area.

“Because the manufacturer fully and willingly cooperated, and the issue has been resolved, the product line will not be named by NZFSA as to do so would be unfair. If we had not had full and immediate cooperation, the situation would have been different.

“Two of the 53,098 tests for agricultural compounds showed results just above the default New Zealand MRL of 0.1mg/kg, and these were for bananas and olive oil. There is no issue with these because the default MRL (applied for compounds not used in New Zealand, but necessary in other climates) is intentionally set very low to ensure a huge margin of safety.”

“In conclusion, we are delighted that the vast majority of New Zealand food producers and manufacturers have proven to be committed to ensuring that New Zealand retains its position as having one of the world’s safest food supplies. NZFSA will continue its comprehensive suite of monitoring and control programmes, and is further developing new programmes to target any areas where concerns may be identified.”

Ends

For further comment contact Dr Andrew McKenzie, Executive Director, 04-463 2502 or 021-430 187.

For more information contact Gary Bowering, Manager (Communications), 04-463 2532 or 027-443 2550.

Resources available for download from http://www.nzfsa.govt.nz