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Food Standards Australia New Zealand Logo

Summary

The role of the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA), in collaboration with others, is to protect the health and safety of Australians and New Zealanders through the maintenance of a safe food supply. Monitoring the food supply for pesticide residues and contaminants is part of this role.

ANZFA is a statutory authority that develops food standards and other food regulatory measures for Australia and New Zealand. ANZFA does this in partnership with the Australian Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments and the New Zealand Government.

ANZFA monitors the food supply to ensure that existing food regulatory measures give adequate consumer protection. The Australian Total Diet Survey (ATDS) is part of that monitoring. It was previously named the Australian Market Basket Survey. A total diet survey is also conducted in New Zealand and the New Zealand Ministry of Health administers that survey.

The survey

The purpose of the ATDS is to estimate the level of dietary exposure of Australian consumers to a range of pesticide residues and contaminants that can be found in the food supply. Dietary exposure is the intake of pesticide residues and contaminants from food.

ANZFA coordinated the survey and relied on the States and Territories involved to arrange purchase and preparation of food samples. The Australian Government Analytical Laboratories carried out all analyses.

Sixty-nine types of foods were tested for pesticide residues and contaminant content from foods sampled throughout the 1998 calendar year. These food types were sampled in different States and Territories and some were sampled at four different times throughout the year.

All foods were screened for pesticide residues, including chlorinated organic pesticides, organophosphorus pesticides, synthetic pyrethroids and fungicides as well as the contaminants antimony, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, selenium, tin and zinc. Fruits and vegetables were analysed for dithiocarbamate fungicides. Walnuts, tahina and roasted salted peanuts were tested for aflatoxins and milk samples were examined for the presence of Aflatoxin M1.

Dietary exposures to pesticide residues and contaminants were estimated for six age - gender groups. Each food in the survey was chemically analysed to measure the level of pesticide residues and contaminants. A ' model ' diet was constructed for each age - gender group based on these foods and food consumption data from the 1995 National Nutrition Survey. The contributions of each pesticide residue and contaminant in every food in a diet were added to give the total dietary exposure.

The estimated dietary exposure from the Australian diet to each chemical was compared to Australian health standards (Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care 2000). In the absence of Australian health standards, international (World Health Organization) health standards were used. These health standards were derived from toxicological studies.

Results

The key results from the survey are:

  • The estimated dietary exposures to arsenic, cadmium, lead, copper, selenium, zinc and tin were within acceptable health standards. Analytical techniques with a lower limit of reporting are required for mercury and antimony analysis to more accurately define the dietary exposure to these chemicals.
  • Aflatoxins were not found in milk, tahina or walnuts, although they were found in one sample of roasted salted peanuts. This sample was found to contain 0.038 mg/kg of Aflatoxin B1 and 0.006 mg/kg of Aflatoxin B2. This amount exceeds the Australian Food Standards Code maximum permitted concentration for aflatoxins in these foods of 0.015 mg/kg and has been brought to the attention of the relevant enforcement agency. Any detection of aflatoxin is significant because these substances are of high toxicity. The ATDS will continue to monitor aflatoxins in future surveys.
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls were not found in any food.
  • The estimated dietary exposures to pesticide residues were all within acceptable health standards.

Survey changes

A number of changes have been made to the survey. One of these changes is the preparation of a shorter printed survey report with more detailed data and results available on the ANZFA website. This approach enables ANZFA to better manage requests for information about the survey.

Another major change is that this survey has used the 1995 National Nutrition Survey data as a basis for the dietary exposures estimates. Previous surveys have used consumption data from the 1983 and 1985 National Dietary Surveys. In order to bridge the gap between one database to another:

  • the report includes a short assessment on the differences between the 1995 food consumption data and the 1983 and 1985 food consumption data; and
  • dietary exposures using the analytical results from the 1996 Australian Market Basket Survey have been recalculated with the 1995 National Nutrition Survey consumption data for comparison with the 19th ATDS results.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the 19th ATDS confirms the overall safety of the Australian food supply regarding the presence of pesticide residues and contaminants.

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