Pesticide residues in Australian veges show need for Country of Origin Labelling
(Soil & Health Submission and the Residue Test Results and commentary to Select Health Committee follow below Media Release)
The discovery of the highly toxic insecticide dimethoate in Australian capsicum labelled as ‘Product of New Zealand’ in an Auckland Woolworths supermarket, shows the need for mandatory Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL), according to the Soil & Health Association’s September Organic NZ magazine.
“This is a clear breach of both voluntary CoOL at the supermarket, but also of the Fair Trading Act by NZ Hothouse whose labelled “Summer House by NZ Hothouse 3Pack Capsicum” appeared to have been “topped up” with Australian produce dipped in dimethoate,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning. “The New Zealand name was dominant on the packaging with a tiny Produce of Australia label needing a lens to find.”
“New Zealanders must be able to choose what country they buy from, yet we believe that repacking with Australian tomatoes may also be happening by some New Zealand packhouses. Four out of six New Zealand loose tomato samples showed no pesticide residues at all, and none contained dimethoate.”
Dimethoate was also found in Australian tomatoes, capsicum and zucchini from Countdown Blenheim, with the level in zucchini more than twice the MRL (Maximum Residue Level). Zucchini and capsicums, which were labelled only as “Imported” did not mention Australia as their country of origin.
Unlabelled capsicum from PaknSave Moorhouse Ave Christchurch also contained dimethoate.
Dimethoate, a systemic organo-phosphate insecticide, is used as an insecticidal dip to kill the Queensland fruit fly in produce imported from Australia to New Zealand. The fruit fly would cause severe damage to the New Zealand horticulture industry if it were released.
However dimethoate and the related chemical omethoate, which is even more toxic, have also been found in the residue tests of Australian produce. They cannot be removed by washing. Both are endocrine and nervous system disruptors, reducing testosterone levels and causing infertility. They can also cause birth defects, a variety of cancers including leukaemia, and can suppress the immune system. Of further concern is their heightened effect when in combination with other chemical residues including medicinal drugs. As an example of this, pre-treatment of rats with phenobarbital resulted in a threefold increase in the acute toxicity of omethoate (1, Menzor and Best, 1968).
“New Zealand tomato growers do not use dimethoate or omethoate and New Zealanders must be able to choose the origin of their products as part of their own health choices,” said Mr Browning.
Soil & Health sampled produce from stores in four centres recently as part of its investigation into endosulfan residues in conjunction with Pesticide Action Network with the results published in Organic NZ magazine. Some overseas produce was also targeted to identify any insecticide residues. Twenty four produce samples were taken with endosulfan and dimethoate detection in mind. Multi residue testing showed that only 25% of samples had no detectable residue.
“While initially targeting endosulfan in support for calling for that pesticide’s withdrawal from New Zealand use, findings of dimethoate in ‘NZ Product’ showed serious breaches of the voluntary Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) protocol that the main supermarket chains Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises say they use,” said Mr Browning. “The NZ Hothouse capsicums labelled as being of New Zealand origin proved to be from Australia, with toxic dimethoate residues being the giveaway.”
“These results support our call for Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling. Pesticide residues in imported food and the health effects of them are an urgent consumer and health issue. Voluntary labelling is not working, either not at all or is poorly utilized, and certainly not enforceable, although fantastic labelling examples, such as my local Blenheim New World do exist.”
Soil & Health has recently submitted the pesticide residue information to the Parliamentary Health Select Committee in support of the 39,000 signature Green Party- initiated petition calling for mandatory CoOL.
A submission of Horticulture NZ (HortNZ) to the Health Select Committee supporting mandatory CoOL, disagrees that CoOL is a food safety issue.
“Soil & Health agrees with the intent of HortNZ’s submission “expecting consumers to make their purchasing decisions based on numerous personal responses to a product. Trust in the safety record of the country of origin is only one reason for making or not making a purchase.,” said Mr Browning, “however Soil & Health disagrees with HortNZ’s “total confidence in the New Zealand Food Safety Authority’s (NZFSA) ability to monitor and regulate our food supply to the highest standard,” or that “country of origin labelling is not a food safety issue,..”
“While Horticulture NZ is opposed to dimethoate use and has indicated the phase out of endosulfan, it needs to work much harder on its members to prevent the disappointing results from many of our residue test results.”
“One rogue grower in Marlborough had all 3 produce samples testing above MRLs and effectively all cucumber, cherry tomato and capsicum results showed pesticide residues. No residues in New Zealand or Chinese garlic was positive, although residue tests for acid herbicide were not run.”
“There are very good examples of biological control of pests with low pesticide use among HortNZ producers with some organic growers that do not use any of the pesticides that have been picked up in the residue tests.”
Soil & Health has a vision of an Organic 2020 with food and environment free from synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.
NOTES, SUBMISSIONS AND TEST RESULTS:
(1) Potentiation – Omethoate was observed to influence the acute oral toxicity of malathion in rats. When administered at 1/2 LD50 levels the mortality observed was slightly greater than theoretically anticipated (Kimmerle and Lorke, 1967). Pretreatment of rats with phenobarbital resulted in a threefold increase in the acute toxicity of omethoate (Menzor and Best, 1968).
The Environmental Risk Management Authority of New Zealand (ERMA) has selected dimethoate as one of 16 chemicals to consider Grounds for Reassessment’ within 5 years.
Although not used by NZ tomato growers, Dimethoate and its formulations are currently registered as ; an organophosphate, Trade names: Perfecthion S, Garden King ROGOR 1000, Dimezyl
One Overall Evaluation includes:
Dimethoate is a broad-spectrum organophosphate insecticide used for the control of a variety of pests. There are currently three products containing dimethoate that are registered for agricultural use in New Zealand. Dimethoate has the potential to cause adverse effects to the nervous system in humans at low concentrations. Dimethoate is also very ecotoxic to aquatic organisms, birds and honey-bees. Many human and ecological incidents have been reported overseas. The US has recently imposed new and more stringent controls on dimethoate. The EU and Australia are currently in the process of reassessing dimethoate. The UK has suspended dimethoate approvals due to concerns regarding short and long term consumer exposure.
Another notes that;
…It has been determined that omethoate is twelve times more toxic than dimethoate in acute dietary exposure and three times more toxic in chronic dietary exposure,…
SUBMISSIONS AND TEST RESULTS,
Country of Origin Labeling
Further evidence to the submission of the Soil & Health Association of NZ
Soil & Health sampled produce from stores in 4 centres as part of its investigation into endosulfan residues. We also targeted some overseas produce to identify any phytosanitary chemical residues. A total of 24 produce samples were taken with endosulfan and dimethoate detection in mind. Sampling was coordinated to avoid duplication of samples.
Multi residue (~230 chemicals) testing by Hills Laboratories showed that only 25% of samples had no residues detected.
While targeting endosulfan, findings of dimethoate showed serious breaches of the voluntary Country of Origin Labeling (CoOL) protocol that the main supermarket chains say they use. As in the notes below, one labeled product of NZ grower misrepresented Australian produce was found. This was only discovered using residue testing. Some other samples had been labeled “imported Produce” or had no identification at all.
Soil & Health believes these results support our call for Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling. Pesticide residues in imported food and the health effects of them are an urgent consumer and health issue. Voluntary labeling is not working, either not at all or is poorly utilized, and certainly not enforceable.
The analysis below will be supported by copies of the Hill Laboratories Multiresidue GC test results.
Multi residue test results, photograph and comments:
Auckland samples July 22 2008: All purchased from Woolworths Waiheke Island
1) Tomato Auckland A. Loose NZ tomatoes
No residues detected
2) Tomato Auckland B. Cherry tomatoes Sweet Intense Flavour. Packed for MG Marketing Christchurch
Endosulfan I mg/kg 0.019
Endosulfan II mg/kg 0.033
Endosulfan sulfate mg/kg 0.026
Iprodione mg/kg 0.51
3) Cucumber Auckland. Telegraph cucumbers are shrink-wrapped but no grower identification
Metalaxyl (Mefenoxam) mg/kg 0.025
4) Capsicum Auckland. Summerhouse brand by NZ Hothouse.
Later comment from sampler following Dimethoate result,
– “Here is a photo of capsicums, on sale in a NZ Hothouse wrapper, labelled also as product of NZ by Woolworth’s, but actually Australian capsicums. These are identically displayed as the ones I had tested as NZ capsicum except that these have red as well as yellow and green ones. I still have the original wrapper.”
Photo Available – NZ Hothouse brand capsicum including Australian produce on sale at Woolworths
This a clear breach of both voluntary CoOL at the supermarket but also of the Fair Trading Act by NZ Hothouse who have been “topping up” their own grown produce with Australian dimethoate dipped produce. We have been informed that this is also happening with some tomatoes.
Chlorothalonil mg/kg 0.016
Dimethoate mg/kg 0.38
Wellington Samples 23 July 2008, All from an independent fruit & vege retailer in Lower Hutt.
Following the Auckland capsicum experience, it has to be asked when NZ Hothouse brand produce is Australian or NZ.
5) Wgtn Tom A Loose tomatoes NZ Hothouse (Karaka, Auckland)
Buprofezin mg/kg 0.025
Endosulfan I mg/kg 0.016
Endosulfan II mg/kg 0.019
Permethrin mg/kg 0.014
Pirimiphos-methyl mg/kg 0.052
6) Wgtn Tom B (cherry tomatoes) (NZ Hothouse, Karaka)
Endosulfan I mg/kg 0.030
Endosulfan II mg/kg 0.045
Endosulfan sulfate mg/kg 0.022
7) Wgtn Cap Capsicum from grower in Whakatane (the owner/manager at retailer said there was a
chance the green ones came from NZ Hothouse)
Endosulfan I mg/kg 0.062
Endosulfan II mg/kg 0.056
8) Wgtn Cuc Cucumber NZ Hothouse
Metalaxyl (Mefenoxam) mg/kg 0.061
Sample Type: Nuts, Fruits and Vegetables and Derived Products
Christchurch Sample 22 July 2008 Pak n Save Moorhouse Ave Christchurch
9) ChCh Tom A Loose tomatoes labelled NZ
No residues detected
10) ChCh Tom B Cherry Tomatoes Classic Mktd by Turners & Growers Mt Wellington Auckland
Chlorothalonil mg/kg 0.36
11) ChCh Cap Capsicum. No Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) but phone enquiry showed red were Australian. Red removed from sample and yet still dimethoate indicating the remaining colours included some Australian produce. Shop staff indicated that all capsicum were being replaced with Australian supplies as the Australian owned supermarket was phasing out NZ capsicum. So much for the effectiveness of voluntary CoOL.
Dimethoate mg/kg 0.036
12) ChCh Cuc Telegraph Cucumbers, J.F. Ewers, Appleby Nelson.
Chlorothalonil mg/kg 0.75
Iprodione mg/kg 0.037
Procymidone mg/kg 0.026
sample Type: Nuts, Fruits and Vegetables and Derived Products
Blenheim Samples 19-Jun-2008 from Blenheim stores
13) Tomato A Australian tomatoes loose, purchased Countdown
Dimethoate mg/kg 0.095
Omethoate mg/kg 0.042
14) Tomato B Australian tomatoes cherry punnet, Countdown
This result is disturbing due to endosulfan being much higher in these Australian cherry tomatoes than in any NZ samples from this series of residue tests. What is also disturbing is the risk to NZ horticulture and biodiversity by dimethoate not being used to counter Queensland fruit fly. Dimethoate which is ideally avoided by consumers, is the correct phytosanitary chemical. Horticulture NZ is investigating with MAF-Biosecurity NZ.
Endosulfan I mg/kg 0.14
Endosulfan II mg/kg 0.11
Endosulfan sulfate mg/kg 0.013
Methamidophos mg/kg 0.034
Piperonyl-butoxide mg/kg 0.039
15) Tomato C NZ Large loose NZ (?beefsteak) New World
No residues detected
16) Tomato D NZ Cherry (Biers of Nelson) purchased Blenheim New World
Endosulfan I mg/kg0.017
Endosulfan II mg/kg 0.028
Endosulfan sulfate mg/kg 0.013
Procymidone mg/kg 0.87
17) Garlic E Chinese
No residues detected
18) Garlic F New Zealand
No residues detected
Blenheim Samples 21-July-2008
Samples from the gate sales stall of Harwood include non-compliant off label use of pesticides with Tolylfluanid exceeding the default Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) of 0.1 mg/kg
19) B/Tom A Loose NZ tomatoes from Harwood Roadside stall Renwick Marlborough
Fluvalinate mg/kg 0.057
Tolylfluanid mg/kg 0.17
20) B/Caps Loose capsicum from Harwood Roadside stall Renwick Marlborough
Fluvalinate mg/kg 0.059
Tolylfluanid mg/kg 0.11
21) B/Cuc Shrink wrapped small telegraph cucumber from Harwood Roadside stall Renwick Marlborough
Tolylfluanid mg/kg 0.32
Triadimefon mg/kg 0.026
22) B/Tom B Small sized NZ tomatoes – Plastic punnet, Country Fresh, New Zealand Full Flavour Tomatoes, Packed for Wholesale Distributors Ltd Auckland. Purchased Fresh Choice Supermarket, Springlands, Blenheim.
No residues detected
Blenheim Samples 24 July Countdown
In store labeled “Imported Capsicum”, “Imported Zucchini”. On enquiry of the produce manager, they were said to be Australian. The checkout staff would not know. Dimethoate, more than twice MRL in zucchini.
sample Type: Nuts, Fruits and Vegetables and Derived Products
23) B1-ACAP Australian capsicum
Bifenthrin mg/kg 0.021
Chlorothalonil mg/kg 0.070
Dimethoate mg/kg 0.051
24) B1-AZUC Australian zucchini
Dimethoate mg/kg 3.7
Omethoate mg/kg 0.50 (Maximum Residue Limits (MRL) cover dimethoate and omethoate singly or in Combination.Total here is 4.2, MRL for fruits & vegetables except tomatoes is 2. Tomatoes is 1).
28 July 2008
Clerk of the Committee
Dear Mr Hill
Petition 2005/0157 of Sue Kedgley and 37,988 others
Requesting mandatory Country Of Origin Labelling.
Soil & Health Association of New Zealand Inc is 67 years old, and is the largest membership organisation supporting organic food and farming in New Zealand, and as such advocates for healthy and safe food and environmental sustainability.
Soil & Health has a membership of about 2300 members and a readership of its retail magazine publication Organic NZ of many thousands. Soil & Health members strongly support mandatory Country of Origin (CoOL) labelling and gathered thousands of signatures for this petition.
These signatures were from all around New Zealand. Soil & Health has been involved with several petitions, and this would be the petition with the most overwhelming support. It was rare for people not to support it.
Soil and Health members and supporters prefer food without chemical residues, GE and nanotech components or contamination, and to this end are particular as to the food they purchase. Hence their need for clear labelling, both in regard organic certification and CoOL.
Soil & Health is involved with interpreting, from a consumer perspective, NZFSA Total Diet Surveys and other residue surveillance reports, and also has some residue sampling done on its own account. This research shows some disturbing results of overseas pesticide use including residues from phyto-sanitary controls. These residues could be avoided if consumers could make decisions based on clear labelling.
Random residue monitoring (June 21) by Soil & Health showed a level of the organochlorine pesticide endosulfan in an Australian cherry tomato sample four and a half times higher than an equivalent New Zealand sample.
Endosulfan is currently undergoing an ERMA reassessment and is banned in at least 55 countries including those of the EU. ERMA quotes in its decision to proceed with reassessment that, “Endosulfan has the potential to cause adverse effects to the nervous system in humans at low concentrations. Chronic exposure may induce liver enlargement, kidney damage and endocrine disruption.”
Major NZ producers following Quality Assurance programs have indicated their rejection of endosulfan and the NZ loose tomato sample from June 21 was residue free.
The loose Australian tomatoes sampled contained the systemic organophosphorous insect and acaricides dimethoate and omethoate used as a post harvest dip in phyto-sanitary control against the Queensland fruit fly before tomatoes are sent to New Zealand. Omethoate is far more toxic and persistent than dimethoate.
Dimethoate and omethoate cannot be removed by washing and they are endocrine and nervous system disruptors, reducing testosterone levels and causing infertility. They can also cause birth defects, a variety of cancers including leukaemia, and suppression of the immune system. Of further concern is their potentised effect when in combination with other chemical residues including medicinal drugs.
For example ; 1 Pretreatment of rats with phenobarbital resulted in a threefold increase in the acute toxicity of omethoate (Menzor and Best, 1968).
The New Zealand large loose tomatoes sampled June 21 were residue free. New Zealand tomato growers do not use dimethoate or omethoate and New Zealanders must be able to choose the origin of their products as part of their own health choices.
Voluntary labelling used by some large retailers has been inconsistent and smaller retailers are often not showing any Country of Origin Labelling.
While our June 21 samples had clear country of origin labelling at the supermarket, many suppliers do not label clearly. Our sampling specifically chose country of origin labelled produce due to the aims of the sampling, however subsequent sampling proved problematic and further personal enquiries were required to ascertain CoOL. This is an unfair burden on consumers. Given the knowledge that Australian tomatoes consistently contain highly toxic dimethoate and omethoate, New Zealand consumers must always be able to choose their local produce, and labelling needs to be mandatory.
Other fresh foods imported are often fumigated with the neurotoxic methyl bromide or in some cases irradiated. Soil & Health members prefer to avoid food from both of these processes, but are not reliably able to differentiate.
Supermarket operator Progressive says it is committed to voluntary labelling of fruit and vegetables, but when samples of capsicum were collected July 22 in a Christchurch Pak n Save there was no CoOL. An enquiry found that the red capsicums were Australian and other colours were New Zealand, but later that day they were all going to be Australian as the New Zealand stock ran out.
Woolworths was exposed earlier this year selling meat labelled as “Product of New Zealand or Australia.”
A Blenheim Countdown supermarket on July 24 was selling some vegetables labelled “Imported Capsicum”, “Imported zucchini”, “Imported beans”, etc. On enquiry of the produce manager, they were said to be Australian. At supermarket checkouts there is generally no knowledge of origin unless there is clear labelling.
Soil & Health is surprised that while the New Zealand government uses a joint food standards system with Australia through Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), there is one very large anomaly, mandatory COUNTRY OF ORIGIN LABELLING!
The FSANZ standard for mandatory CoOL allows for informed consumer choice but the New Zealand consumers are limited to an inconsistent and often misleading or unclear voluntary scheme. Consultation of consumers was poor ahead of New Zealand’s rejection of CoOL.
Soil & Health is a representative on organic sector organisations often as a consumer advocate, and also as an NGO, participates in NZFSA, ERMA, MfE and FSANZ consultations. As such Soil & Health has a representative on the widely representative NZFSA Consumer Forum. The at times divided forum showed unanimous support for mandatory Country of Origin Labelling.
Soil & Health members and supporters are also concerned with ethical production of food and animal welfare, land and fresh water management, fisheries management, and labour and social issues. These are also considered in their food purchasing decisions. CoOL labelling assists with these decisions and encourages good practice internationally.
New Zealand imports approximately 1.5 million tonnes of food every year from a range of countries.
Soil & Health is aware of a number of international and New Zealand imports from China that included a banned food additive the carcinogenic antibiotic nitrofuran. Additives also included malachite green and gentian violet. NZFSA takes a very permissive approach to imported foods, yet even in the free trade promoting USA, mandatory Country of Origin Labelling is expected to be implemented next year in recognition of consumers rights there. Most western countries including Australia and Europe have comprehensive CoOl.
This is an important area of concern, with significant health and consumer choice implications.
The Soil & Health Association of NZ appreciates this opportunity to address the Health Committee in respect of the petition and the subject of food labelling.
1. WHO Pesticide Residues Series, No. 1 1971 EVALUATIONS OF SOME PESTICIDE RESIDUES IN FOOD Pesticide Residues in Food: Report of the 1971 Joint Meeting of the FAO Working Party of Experts on Pesticide Residues and the WHO Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues, Wld Hlth Org. techn. Rep. Ser., No. 502; FAO Agricultural Studies, 1972, No. 88.
(b) Potentiation – Omethoate was observed to influence the acute oral toxicity of malathion in rats. When administered at 1/2 LD50 levels the mortality observed was slightly greater than theoretically anticipated (Kimmerle and Lorke, 1967). Pretreatment of rats with phenobarbital resulted in a threefold increase in the acute toxicity of omethoate (Menzor and Best, 1968).