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New South Wales State of the Environment
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SoE 2003 > Land > 4.7 Chemical contamination: food and produce

Chapter 4: Land

4.7 Chemical contamination: food and produce

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4.7 Chemical contamination: food and produce

Australian animal and plant food products have very low chemical residues

The National Residue Survey in 1999–2000 indicated that overall compliance with maximum residue limits for Australian animal and plant food products was within the range of 99.95–99.98%. The results show that these products have a low residue status.

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NSW Indicator


Status of Indicator

4.8 Exceedences of maximum residue levels in food and produce

The National Residue Survey shows that only a very small percentage of samples exceed maximum residue levels.

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Importance of the issue

Some agricultural and veterinary chemicals can contaminate produce intended for human or animal consumption. This can have serious impacts on human health, and domestic and foreign trade.

The National Residue Survey program regularly tests samples of animal and plant food products for the presence of chemical residues and environmental contaminants, such as heavy metals. Over the past decade, the results from this survey have consistently demonstrated very low levels of pesticides and contaminants in agricultural products. In 1999–2000, the overall rate of compliance was very high at 99.95% (AFFA 2000). The compliance rate for each of the major commodity groups (meat, grain, and horticultural and fisheries products) is also very high (AFFA 2000).

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Response to the issue

To address consumer and trade pressures for 'clean' agricultural produce, cooperative government programs have been set up to undertake regular and random monitoring of produce. In addition to the National Residue Survey, the Australian Total Diet Survey determines the impact of residues and heavy metals on human health by monitoring residues in food products prepared for domestic consumption.

NSW Agriculture in association with some industries has conducted trace-back programs to determine the reason for any exceedence of residue limits and take steps to prevent a recurrence. The Sydney Market Pesticide Residue Survey assessed pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables at the Sydney Markets from 1989 to 2000, enabling identification of the source of any exceedences of residue limits.

Safe Food Production NSW is responsible for food safety, including chemical residues and contaminants in food, under the Food Production (Safety) Act 1998. Regulation of agricultural chemical use under the Pesticides Act 1999 and Fertilisers Act 1985, and government policies relating to biosolids management are also playing an important role in minimising chemical residues and contaminants in food produce.

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Effectiveness of responses

The current framework has been effective in ensuring very low residue levels in food and produce.

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Future directions

Continued use of trace-back programs and regulatory controls on food safety and the use of agricultural chemicals will help minimise chemical residues and contaminants in food produce and the broader environment.

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Linked issues

4.6 Chemical contamination: land

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