More good news on agricultural chemical good practice

20 August 2012

New residue testing indicates that growers are following good agricultural practice (GAP) in how they use pesticides, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said today.

Test results from the fourth and final quarter of this year’s Food Residues Surveillance Programme (FRSP) - which looks at chemical residues in fresh, unwashed produce or derived product - were released today.

The FRSP targets locally-produced and imported crops prone to exceeding the maximum residue limit (MRL) set for agricultural chemicals, and crops where little data is available on chemical use. MRLs are used to determine whether growers have followed good agricultural practice.

This year’s focus was on asparagus, eggplant, feijoas, hops, lemons, olive oil, persimmons, pumpkins, spring onion, sweet corn, tamarillos and walnuts. In total, more than 350 chemicals are tested for.

During quarter four testing was carried out on lemon, spring onion, feijoa, sweet corn and olive oil.

Of all 133 samples tested, only seven contained residues that did not comply with the relevant MRLs and none of the residues found posed health or food safety concerns.

The samples that had residues over the MRL or allowable limit were:

  • one out of 26 lemon samples that contained non-compliant levels of the fungicide pyrimethanil.
  • six out of 24 olive oil samples that contained non-compliant levels of the fungicide azoxystrobin or the fungicide propiconazole. When the processing factor is taken into account, these results indicate that the raw olives would have likely breached the MRLs for those compounds.

While the non-compliant residues can suggest that some farmers have not complied with good agricultural practice, none of the identified non-compliances pose a risk to human health.

Nonetheless, MPI Manager Chemical and Microbiological Assurance Mike Clear says that MPI is following up with the growers concerned. “We need to ensure they know how to keep good records of chemical use and are interpreting label directions correctly,” he says.

MPI is developing a new Domestic Food Assurance Programme, which will merge the FRSP and the Imported Food Monitoring Programme. Rather than focusing on imported or domestically produced foods separately, the Domestic Food Assurance Programme will look at the overall status of food available on the domestic market by testing for particular microbiological and chemical hazards.

“By combining the two programmes we can better assess the risk to the New Zealand public from particular hazards that may be a concern due to concerns identified overseas. The information we gather can in turn inform our standards setting work,” Mr Clear says.

Results from this year’s FRSP are online:
Food Residues Surveillance Programme

For answers to common questions about agricultural compound residues in food see:
Agricultural production

Editor’s note:

One sample of organic olive oil was found to contain residues of chlorpyrifos. While the residue was within the MRL and does not represent a food safety issue, this compound should not be present in organic olive oil. MPI has alerted the Commerce Commission of this finding.

Issued by:
Miriam Meister, Senior Communications Adviser
Telephone: 04-894 2466 or 029-894 2466
Email: miriam.meister@mpi.govt.nz

Follow MPI on Twitter (@MPI_NZ)