Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Skip to main content

Plain English Allergen Labelling: New allergen labelling information requirements will be in effect from 25 Feb 2024 | Learn more

Australian Total Diet Study

The Australian Total Diet Study is Australia's most comprehensive monitoring survey of chemicals, nutrients and other substances in the Australian diet.

We measure the levels of different chemicals and substances in a range of foods typical to the Australian diet. We use this data to estimate Australian consumers' exposure to chemicals through food to ensure it is safe to eat.

The ATDS is also a trusted source of public health information which is used by the World Health Organisation (WHO), other government and nongovernment agencies and independent researchers.

The first ATDS (formerly the Australian Market Basket Survey) was conducted over 50 years ago in 1970 by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). FSANZ has managed the study since 2001, and in that time it has evolved to include a wider range of chemicals and nutrients.

27th Australian Total Diet Study​

Downloads

Summary

The 27th ATDS investigated levels of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS) in a range of foods and beverages common to the Australian diet.

The study tested for 30 different types PFAS, in 1,336 composite samples, representing 112 commonly eaten foods sourced from all Australian states and territories. Samples were taken across two seasons (Autumn and Summer) to account for seasonal variations.

Results

The study found that Australian consumers' exposure to PFAS through food and beverages is very low and poses no food safety concerns.

Only one type of PFAS - perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) - was detected at low levels in less than 2% of all foods sampled.

PFAS levels were well below Australian guidance values, including FSANZ trigger points for site investigation and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) drinking water guidelines.

The overall dietary exposure to PFOS for the general Australian population is lower than the Tolerable Daily Intake indicating no public health and safety concerns. 

Conclusion

Overall, the 27th ATDS found:

  • PFAS levels in the Australian food supply are very low
  • there are no public health and safety concerns for the general Australian population, and
  • there is no current need for additional risk management measures (like maximum levels) in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.​

PFAS and Immunomodulation: Review and Update   

To support the 27th ATDS, FSANZ also undertook a review of recent studies concerning the potential of PFAS to affect the human immune system. The review concluded that although some statistical associations were found, there is a lack of consistent evidence that PFAS at levels of environmental exposure are harmful to the human immune system. ​

26th Australian Total Diet Study​

Downloads

Summary

The 26th ATDS investigated levels of compounds classified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) by the Stockholm Convention in a broad range of foods and beverages. The POPs investigated were:

  • ​Dioxins and dioxin-like compounds (DLCs) (hereafter referred to as 'dioxins')
    • polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs)
    • ​polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs)
    • dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (DL-PCBs)
  •  Non-dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (NDL-PCBs).

A total of 33 different foods and beverages were sampled from all Australian states and territories over 2 sampling periods (April 2017 and February 2018).

Results

The levels of dioxins and NDL-PCBs in the Australian food supply were generally lower than those reported internationally and in an earlier 2004 Australian study by FSANZ.

Dietary exposure to dio​xins and NDL-PCBs for the general Australian population is acceptably low and there are no food safety concerns for consumers.

Conclusion

The 26th ATDS confirms the safety of the Australian food supply in relation to levels of dioxins and NDL-PCBs.

We are of the view that current risk management measures, which include maximum levels in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, where appropriate, are effective in ensuring that dioxin and NDL-PCB levels remain as low as reasonably achievable.​​

    25th Australian Total Diet Study​

    Downloads

    Summary

    The 25th ATDS investigated a wide range of Australian foods for the presence of a number of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, and four metal contaminants (arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury). A total of 88-different food types were sampled from all Australian states and territories over two sampling periods (May 2013 and February 2014). Concentrations of agricultural and veterinary chemicals and metal contaminants were generally low, with a large proportion of food samples containing no detectable residues.

    Results

    The 25th ATDS investigated levels of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, and metal contaminants arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury, in a broad range of foods. Dietary exposure was estimated for the general Australian population and there are no public health and safety concerns for most substances. FSANZ has identified areas for future work including possible risk management options to ensure that the Australian food supply remains safe.

    Agricultural and veterinary chemicals

    • Concentrations of agricultural and veterinary chemicals were generally low, with a large proportion of food samples containing no detectable residues.
    • Estimated dietary exposures for all but one of these chemicals were below the relevant acceptable daily intakes (ADIs) indicating no public health and safety concerns.
    • Estimated dietary exposures for the organophosphorus insecticide prothiofos exceeded the ADI for some population age groups. FSANZ notified the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), the Australian government regulator of agricultural and veterinary chemicals. The APVMA subsequently worked with industry who voluntarily changed the way prothiofos is used to ensure that risks for Australian consumers are acceptably low. 

    Metal contaminants

    • Concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury, and estimated dietary exposure for the Australian population were consistent with those reported in the international scientific literature.

    Inorganic arsenic

    • There is no health-based guidance value (HBGV) for inorganic arsenic as international assessments have been unable to establish a safe level of human exposure.
    • Estimated dietary exposures to inorganic arsenic were calculated with data for a limited number of foods. Major dietary contributors are rice and rice products; fish and seafood, including crustacea and sushi, and infant cereal products.
    • Dietary exposures to inorganic arsenic were determined to be below levels associated with adverse health effects.

    Cadmium

    • Major dietary contributors to cadmium exposure are root vegetables, savoury snacks including crisps, grain type breads, cakes and baked goods, and berries.
    • Dietary exposures to cadmium were compared to the Provisional Tolerable Monthly Intake (PTMI), which determined that there are no public health and safety concerns for Australian consumers.

    Lead

    • There is no HBGV for lead as international assessments have been unable to establish a safe level of human exposure.
    • Major dietary contributors to lead exposure are wide ranging and include water, sweetened soft drinks, baked goods, some dried and tinned fruits, pork, some deli meats, honey, chocolates and fudge.
    • Dietary exposures to lead for most Australian consumers are lower than levels considered to be of negligible risk of causing adverse health effects in human populations. For this reason, risks for Australian consumers are considered to be acceptably low. 

    Mercury

    • Seafood is the major dietary contributor to inorganic mercury and organic (methyl)mercury exposure.

    Inorganic mercury

    • Dietary exposures to inorganic mercury were compared to the Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake (PTWI), which determined that there are no public health and safety concerns for Australian consumers.

    Methylmercury

    • Estimated dietary exposures to methylmercury were below the PTWI for all population age groups except 2 to 5 year olds. The most sensitive subgroup–women of child bearing age–had dietary exposure below the PTWI.
    • These results indicate that dietary exposures for most Australian consumers are acceptably low. Exceedances of the PTWI for children aged 2 to 5 years should be considered in the context of the known benefits of fish consumption.
    • FSANZ already publishes consumer advice to manage dietary exposure to mercury through fish consumption while highlighting the health benefits of fish consumption. This advice will continue to be updated as required to reflect future work on the issue.

    Conclusion

    The 25th ATDS confirms the current safety of the Australian food supply for the general population in relation to the levels of agricultural and veterinary chemicals and selected metal contaminants in a broad range of foods. FSANZ has identified a number of areas for further work including risk management options to ensure that the Australian food supply remains safe. As part of this, FSANZ will continue to monitor domestic and international developments related to chemicals in food to prioritise future survey work as required. For contaminants, in particular, focus will be given to foods known to contribute significantly to dietary exposure, including for those groups identified as being at higher risk (such as infants and children).

      24th Australian Total Diet Study​ - Phase 2

      Downloads

      Summary

      The 2nd phase of the 24th ATDS involved analysing Australian foods and beverages for 30 food packaging chemicals and printing inks.

      This survey work complements earlier FSANZ surveys on food packaging chemicals and included a wider range of foods and beverages.

      A total of typically consumed 81 foods and beverages were sampled over two sampling periods.

      The chemicals tested for included bisphenol A (BPA), epoxidised soy bean oil (ESBO), phthalates, printing inks and perfluorinated compounds. 

      Results

      The ATDS found that Australian consumers’ exposure to food packaging chemicals is low. 

      There were no detections for half the chemicals and detections at low levels (parts per million or part per billion) for the rest of the chemicals. In most cases the chemicals were only detected in a small number of the samples analysed. For example, EDAB (a printing ink chemical) was detected at low levels (up to 80 ppb) in only 4 of 335 tested samples.

      Where chemicals were detected, levels were generally similar to or lower than those reported in previous Australian and international studies.

      Conclusion 

      FSANZ did not identify any public health and safety concerns for 28 of the 30 chemicals, even using highly conservative dietary exposure estimates.

      However the screening study identified that more work needed to be done on two phthalates [di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DINP)],  to determine whether there are any health and safety concerns.

      FSANZ is currently planning a follow–up analytical survey to allow a better estimate of dietary exposure to these two chemicals.

      The information gathered in this study will also inform a review of the current regulatory framework of food contact packaging materials in Australia and New Zealand through Proposal P1034 – Chemical Migration from Packaging into Food.

      24th Australian Total Diet Study​ - Phase 1

      Downloads

      Summary

      The 24th ATDS involved the analysis of Australian foods and beverages for concentrations of three food chemicals and 30 food packaging chemicals and printing inks. A total of 94 foods and beverages were sampled over two sampling periods. Due to the broad scope of the survey, the report is being released in two phases. This report focuses on acrylamide, aluminium and perchlorates. The phase 2 report will focus on food packaging chemicals including bisphenol A (BPA), epoxidised soy bean oil (ESBO), phthalates, printing inks and perfluorinated compounds.

      Results

      Acrylamide

      • The levels of acrylamide found in the 24th ATDS were generally lower than, or comparable to, those reported in Australian and international studies.
      • Estimated dietary exposures were used to calculate Margin of Exposures using carcinogenic and neurotoxic endpoints. These indicate that the acrylamide exposure of Australian consumers is consistent with those considered to be of possible concern to human health by the 72nd meeting of the Joint Food and Agriculture Organisation/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA, 2011).
      • It is important to maintain industry and consumer education measures to ensure acrylamide levels in Australian foods remain as low as reasonably achievable.

      Aluminium

      • Aluminium was included in the 24th ATDS to supplement data collected during the 23rd ATDS and to provide an updated dietary exposure estimate.
      • Estimated dietary exposures were under the Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake (PTWI) for all population groups assessed except for 2–5 year old 90th percentile consumers who had an estimated exposure of 110% of the PTWI. This small exceedance is unlikely to represent a major public health and safety issue.
      • Dietary exposure estimates were higher than those reported in the 23rd ATDS because more processed foods were included. The 24th ATDS included foods likely to have additives containing aluminium, with relatively high levels of aluminium being found in some foods such as cakes, compared to other foods surveyed.

      Perchlorate

      • Perchlorate levels were screened in eight tap water samples from across Australia and all results were below the limit of reporting. For this reason, no risk assessment for perchlorates was conducted.

      Conclusion

      FSANZ has identified a number of areas for further work or development of risk management options to ensure that the Australian food supply remains safe. FSANZ will continue to monitor both domestic and international developments related to chemicals in food and use this to prioritise future survey work in the form of a nationally coordinated ATDS or smaller scale target surveys as required.

        23rd Australian Total Diet Study​

        Downloads

        Summary

        The 23rd Australian Total Diet Study (ATDS) examined the dietary exposure of the Australian population to 214 agricultural and veterinary chemicals, 9 contaminants, 12 mycotoxins, and 11 nutrients. A total of 92 foods and beverages commonly consumed in the Australian diet were sampled during January/February and June/July 2008 by Government food agencies in each state and territory in Australia. Foods and beverages were prepared to a table-ready state before being analysed.

        Dietary exposure was estimated by determining the concentration of the substance in the foods and beverages multiplied by the amount of food consumed by various age and gender groups, as reported in the two most recent Australian national nutrition surveys (NNS). The dietary exposure to agricultural and veterinary chemicals, contaminants and nutrients was assessed against available reference health standards to determine any potential human health and safety risks. Where there were no Australian health standards, internationally accepted reference health standards or Margins of Exposure (MOE) were used.

        Results

        The ATDS found that for agricultural and veterinary chemical residues estimated dietary exposures were all below the relevant reference health standards. This is consistent with the findings from previous ATDS. In addition, there were no detections of mycotoxins in any of the foods analysed.

        Estimated dietary exposure for contaminants were below the relevant health standards for all population groups at both the mean and 90th percentile consumption levels (high consumers).

        The ATDS provided a general indication of nutrient intake amongst the Australian population but results do not indicate a human health and safety risk. Results will inform further larger scale studies such as national nutrition surveys that will investigate and further define nutrient adequacy.

        Conclusions

        The 23rd ATDS confirms the current safety of the Australian food supply in terms of the levels of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, contaminants, selected mycotoxins and nutrients.

        These results are consistent with previous ATDS’s that have showed that dietary exposure to these chemicals from the food supply was well within reference health standards.

        The ATDS will continue as a national collaborative effort to estimate the level of dietary exposure of Australians to a range of food chemicals in order to assess public health and safety.

          Key findings

          The Australian Total Diet Study (ATDS) is a major study undertaken every two years to estimate the dietary exposure of the population to a range of chemicals found in commonly consumed foods.

          Like previous studies, this ATDS confirms the current safety of the Australian food supply in relation to the levels of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, contaminants, selected mycotoxins and nutrients.

          What did the ATDS look at?

          The 23rd ATDS looked at the dietary exposure of the Australian population to a range of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, contaminants, selected mycotoxins and nutrients. A total of 92 types of foods and beverages commonly consumed in the diet were collected by state and territory food regulatory agencies and sent to the laboratory to be analysed.

          Dietary exposures to chemicals were estimated by determining the concentration of the chemical in the food and multiplying this by the amount of food consumed by various age and gender groups. Food consumption data from two National Nutrition Surveys (NNS), the 2007 Australian Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey for children aged 2-16 years, and the 1995 NNS for those aged 17 years and above, were used to estimate dietary exposure.

          Estimated dietary exposures to agricultural and veterinary chemicals, contaminants, selected mycotoxins and nutrients were subsequently assessed against available reference health standards to determine any potential human health and safety risks. Reference health standards used were either Australian or internationally accepted standards.

          Key results

          Agricultural and veterinary chemicals

          • Estimated dietary exposures for agricultural and veterinary chemicals were all below relevant reference health standards. This is consistent with the findings from previous Australian total diet studies.
          • While some agricultural and veterinary chemicals that are not approved for use in Australia were detected, these were not at levels that pose a risk to human health and safety.
          • This was also true where some chemicals approved for use exceeded MRLs in the Code.
          • FSANZ provided notice to the relevant state or territory in cases where there was an exceedance or the use of non-approved chemicals was found.

          Mycotoxins (toxins produced by fungi)

          • Aflatoxins, deoxynivalenol, fumonisins (B1 and B2), ochratoxin A, patulin and zearalenone, were not detected in any foods analysed.

          Contaminants

          • For all contaminants, the estimated dietary exposures were below the relevant reference health standards for all population groups at both the median and 90th percentile consumption levels (high consumers).

          Nutrients

          • The ATDS only provides a general indication of nutrient intake amongst the Australian population. These indicators will inform further larger scale studies such as national nutrition surveys that will investigate and further define nutrient adequacy.

          Molybdenum and selenium

          • The prevalence of intakes below the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) was low.

          Copper, fluoride, selenium & zinc

          • A proportion of children aged 2-3 years exceeded the Upper Levels (ULs) for these nutrients. Given the ULs for children are highly conservative, these findings are not considered to pose a risk to human health and safety.
          • Infants aged 9 months may also exceed the UL for these nutrients, excluding copper, at the 95th percentile (high consumers) of intake. Assessment of nutrient intakes for infants aged 9 months is theoretical and based on extrapolations from a model diet. As such, any conclusions around nutrient intake for this population group should take this into account.

          22nd Australian Total Diet Study​

          Downloads

          Summary

          The Australian Total Diet Study (ATDS), formerly known as the Australian Market Basket Survey, is Australia’s most comprehensive assessment of consumers’ dietary exposure (intake) to a range of food chemicals including food additives, nutrients, pesticide residues, contaminants and other substances. The survey has been conducted approximately every two years, and this is the 22nd such survey.

          Past studies have consistently shown that Australian dietary exposures to pesticide residues and contaminants are well below Australian or international reference health standards and do not represent a public health and safety risk. Therefore, the scope and format of the study has been broadened to include a wider range of chemicals found in food, including additives and nutrients. This change has allowed Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) greater flexibility in focusing the study on specific food chemicals where further data on dietary exposure (intake) are desirable. The 22nd ATDS estimated the dietary intake of the Australian population of five nutrient trace elements, namely iodine, selenium, chromium, molybdenum and nickel. Representative foods likely to contain these nutrients were sampled and prepared to a ‘table-ready’ state before analysis, in order to provide realistic estimates of amounts of the nutrients in the food as consumed.

          As for the past three total diet studies (19th to 21st), food consumption data derived from the 1995 National Nutrition Survey were used in the calculation of dietary intakes of the nutrients.

          This study provides valuable data that can be used for developing or amending food regulatory measures to ensure the protection of public health and safety. In particular, the results for iodine support previous findings in relation to iodine deficiency and consequently, FSANZ will be introducing mandatory fortification of iodine in bread, from September 2009, to enhance public health.

          Government food agencies in each State and Territory have provided invaluable assistance with this study and FSANZ acknowledges their very important contribution. A formal international expert peer reviewer was also engaged to evaluate the study and provided useful detailed comments.

          The Study

          The purpose of the Australian Total Diet Study (ATDS) is to estimate the level of dietary exposure (intake) of the Australian population to a range of chemicals including pesticide residues, contaminants, nutrients, additives and other substances that may be found in the food supply. The 22nd ATDS estimated dietary intake of five nutrient trace elements: iodine, selenium, chromium, molybdenum and nickel. Dietary intake was estimated by determining the level of the nutrient in foods by laboratory analysis, and then combining this with the amount of food consumed, as determined in the 1995 National Nutrition Survey (NNS). The dietary intake of the nutrients was assessed against their respective reference health standard for Australian population groups, where available. In order to achieve more accurate dietary intake estimates, the foods examined in the ATDS were prepared to a ‘table ready’ state before they were analysed. As a consequence, both raw and cooked foods were examined. [ continued ]

          Results

          The estimated dietary intake of each nutrient from the Australian diet was compared to the relevant Australian Estimated Average Requirements (EAR) or Adequate Intake levels (AI) and the Upper Level of Intake (UL) endorsed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2006 .concentrations of each nutrient in each food analysed were determined. The 5th percentile, mean and 95th percentile levels of dietary intake were calculated for each nutrient and population group, based on the mean nutrient concentration. [ continued ]

          Conclusion

          Whilst the majority of Australians had dietary intakes approaching or above the EAR or AI for selenium, molybdenum and chromium, a substantial proportion of the population had iodine intakes below the EAR. FSANZ has subsequently commissioned further analyses of iodine levels in Australian foods and will be introducing mandatory fortification of iodine in bread, from September 2009.

          Continued monitoring of selenium concentrations and intakes may be warranted given the lower levels found in a range of foods compared to the findings of the 20th ATDS. Selenium has been included in the 23rd ATDS.

          There were no concerns about excessive dietary intake of the nutrients assessed against established reference values, where these exist.

          21st Australian Total Diet Study​

          Downloads

          Summary

          The Australian Total Diet Study (ATDS), formerly known as the Australian Market Basket Survey, is Australia’s most comprehensive assessment of consumers’ dietary exposure (intake) to a range of food chemicals including food additives, nutrients, pesticide residues, contaminants and other substances. The survey has been conducted approximately every two years, and this is the 21st such survey.

          Past studies have consistently shown that Australian dietary exposures to pesticide residues and contaminants are well below Australian or international reference health standards and do not represent a public health and safety risk. Therefore, the scope and format of the study has been changed. In this and future studies, subsets of a broader range of chemicals found in food, including additives and nutrients, will be examined. The new smaller surveys will be conducted more frequently in response to the need for current information on the safety of substances in food. This change has allowed Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) greater flexibility in focusing the study on specific food chemicals where further data on dietary exposure are desirable. The 21st ATDS estimates the dietary exposure of the Australian population to three specific food preservatives, namely sulphites, benzoates and sorbates. Representative foods believed to contain these preservatives were sampled and prepared to a ‘table-ready’ state before analysis, in order to provide realistic estimates of amounts of the preservatives in the food as consumed.

          As in the 19th and 20th total diet studies, food consumption data derived from the 1995 National Nutrition Survey were used in the calculation of dietary exposures to the food preservatives.

          This study provides valuable data that can be used for developing or amending food regulatory measures to ensure the protection of public health and safety. Data from previous studies were used by FSANZ during the Review of the Australian Food Standards Code and were integral to the development of the subsequent joint Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

          Government food agencies in each State and the Northern Territory have provided invaluable assistance with this study and FSANZ acknowledges their very important contribution. A formal international expert peer reviewer was also engaged to evaluate the study and provided useful detailed comments.

          The Study

          The purpose of the ATDS is to estimate the level of dietary exposure of the Australian population to a range of food chemicals including pesticide residues, contaminants, nutrients, additives and other substances that can be found in the food supply. In the ATDS, dietary exposure is estimated by determining the level of the substance in foods by laboratory analysis, and then combining this with the amount of food consumed, as determined in a separate study. In order to achieve more realistic dietary exposure estimates, the foods examined in the ATDS are prepared to a ‘table ready’ state before they are analysed. As a consequence, both raw and cooked foods are examined. This study estimated dietary exposure to three classes of preservatives, namely sulphites, benzoates and sorbates.

          FSANZ coordinated the 21st ATDS, while Government food agencies in the States and Northern Territory purchased the food samples for their jurisdictions. Food samples for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) were collected by FSANZ. Queensland Health Scientific Services carried out sample preparation and analyses.

          Fifty-nine types of foods, representing mainly processed foods for which there are permissions to contain preservatives in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Food Standards Code), were sampled during April and May 2003, and tested for the food preservatives sulphites, benzoates, and sorbates. In addition, minced meat, for which there are no additive permissions but State and Territory compliance data indicated illegal addition of sulphites, was sampled. The foods sampled included those that might be expected to show regional variation (regional foods), and those available nationwide and not expected to show regional variation (national foods). For each food, three samples were combined to give a composite sample that was chemically analysed to measure the levels of preservatives.

          Diets for each individual in the representative age-gender groups were derived for exposure estimations, based on 24-hour diet recall food consumption data from the 1995 National Nutrition Survey (NNS). When using these data it should be noted that drawing conclusions about lifetime eating patterns from food consumption data derived from a single 24-hour diet recall, may lead to an over-estimation of dietary exposure. This over-estimation is magnified when considering 95th percentile consumers of the food chemical. More comprehensive data on multiple-day intakes, or frequency of consumption, may provide better estimates of long-term food consumption and dietary exposure.

          Dietary exposure to each preservative was estimated using the food consumption data and the level of preservative present in each food. Results were calculated for ‘consumers only’, that is, those people who reported consuming food containing the chemical being assessed.

          The dietary exposure estimates were calculated for a range of age-gender groups. These age-gender groups were young girls aged 2-5 years, young boys aged 2-5 years, school girls aged 6-12 years, school boys aged 6-12 years, teenage girls aged 13-18 years, teenage boys aged 13-18 years, adult females aged 19 years and over and adult males aged 19 years and over. In addition, dietary exposure was estimated for the entire female population aged two years and over and entire male population aged two years and over, representing a lifetime of exposure.

          The estimated dietary exposure to each preservative from the Australian diet was compared to international reference health standards set by the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) / World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). The reference health standard for the food additives is the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). The ADI is the amount of a food additive that can be consumed on a daily basis over a lifetime without appreciable health risk.

          There are a number of uncertainties inherent in the dietary exposure assessment, including assumptions made in the calculations, certain limitations of the laboratory test data and sampling, and the relevance of the food consumption data that were derived from the 1995 NNS. Despite these uncertainties, the exposure assessments represent the best estimate of dietary exposure for sulphites, benzoates and sorbates using the available data. These uncertainties, however, should be taken into consideration in any subsequent risk management strategy.

          Results

          Key results from this study were:

          Sulphites

          • Mean estimated dietary exposure to sulphites was less than or equal to 80% of the ADI for all population groups assessed.
             
          • The mean estimated dietary exposure for the population aged two years and over, representing mean lifetime exposure, was approximately 35% of the ADI for males and 30% of the ADI for females.
             
          • 95th percentile estimated dietary exposures exceeded the ADI for sulphites for nine of the 10 population groups assessed, ranging from approximately 85% of the ADI for teenage girls aged 13-18 years to approximately 280% of the ADI for young boys aged 2-5 years.
          • 95th percentile estimated dietary exposure to sulphites for the population aged two years and over, representing lifetime exposure for a high consumer of sulphites, was approximately 130% of the ADI for males and females.
             
          • Major foods contributing to dietary exposure to sulphites for children were beef sausages, dried apricots and cordial, and for adults were white wine, beef sausages and dried apricots.

          Benzoates

          • Mean estimated dietary exposure to benzoates was less than 50% of the ADI for all population groups assessed.
             
          • Mean estimated dietary exposure for the population aged two years and over, representing mean lifetime exposure, was approximately 15% of the ADI for males and approximately 10% of the ADI for females.
             
          • 95th percentile estimated dietary exposures to benzoates exceeded the ADI for young boys (approximately 140%) and young girls (approximately 120%) aged 2-5 years, and was equivalent to the ADI for schoolboys aged 6-12 years. All other population groups were below the ADI for 95th percentile estimated dietary exposures.
             
          • 95th percentile estimated dietary exposure to benzoates for the population aged two years and over, representing lifetime exposure for a high consumer of benzoates, was approximately 60% of the ADI for males and approximately 50% of the ADI for females.
             
          • Major foods contributing to dietary exposure to benzoates for young children aged 2-5 years were cordial, non-cola soft drinks and orange juice. For all other age groups assessed, non-cola soft drinks were the greatest contributor to dietary exposure to benzoates.

          Sorbates

          • Mean and 95th percentile estimated dietary exposure to sorbates was less than or equal to 40% of the ADI for sorbates for all population groups assessed.
             
          • Mean estimated dietary exposure to sorbates for the population aged two years and over, representing mean lifetime exposure, was approximately 3% of the ADI for both males and females.
             
          • 95th percentile estimated dietary exposure to sorbates for the population aged two years and over, representing lifetime exposure for a high consumer of sorbates, was approximately 15% of the ADI for males and approximately 10% of the ADI for females.
             
          • The major food contributing to dietary exposure to sorbates for all population groups assessed was orange juice.

          Conclusion

          The results of this total dietary study indicate that for the majority of the population in all age groups the dietary exposure to sulphite, benzoates and sorbates is well below the relevant reference health standard and there is no public health and safety risk from the consumption of a balanced diet which includes some foods containing sulphites, benzoates or sorbates.

          The results, however, also indicate that in some age groups consumption of sulphites and benzoates (but not sorbates) may exceed the relevant reference health standard for a proportion of the population. Therefore, for individuals in these age groups whose dietary pattern leads to a high regular consumption of sulphites and benzoates, there is a potential public health and safety risk.

          It should be noted, however, that dietary modelling used in this survey is conservative and is likely to lead to an overestimate of actual dietary exposure. The reference health standard (the ADI) is also conservative and contains a significant margin of safety. Nevertheless, while there is currently no clinical evidence that high dietary exposure to sulphites and benzoates can cause adverse effects in humans, exceeding the ADI is a concern and effectively reduces the margin of safety provided by the reference health standard.

          20th Australian Total Diet Study​

          Downloads

          Summary

          The Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) became Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) on 1 July, 2002. Food Standards Australia New Zealand is a bi-national statutory authority that develops food standards for composition, labelling and contaminants, including microbiological limits, that apply to all foods produced or imported for sale in Australia and New Zealand.

          The primary role of Food Standards Australia New Zealand, 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, contaminants and other substances1 is conducted in both Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, this monitoring was conducted by ANZFA (and now by FSANZ) and in New Zealand, by the Ministry of Health (and from 1 July 2002, by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA)).

          FSANZ monitors the food supply to ensure that existing food regulatory measures provide adequate protection of consumer health and safety. The Australian Total Diet Survey (ATDS) is part of that monitoring. It was previously named the Australian Market Basket Survey (AMBS). A total diet survey is also conducted in New Zealand and the New Zealand Ministry of Health have been responsible for administering that survey. Future surveys in New Zealand will be administered by the NZFSA.

          The survey

          The purpose of the ATDS is to estimate the level of dietary exposure of the Australian population to a range of pesticide residues, contaminants and other substances that can be found in the food supply. Dietary exposure is the intake of pesticide residues, contaminants and other substances from foods consumed. In the ATDS, dietary exposure is estimated by determining the level of the substance in foods by direct analysis, and then multiplying this by the amount of food consumed, as determined in a separate study. In order to achieve more accurate dietary exposure estimates, the foods examined in the ATDS were prepared to a ‘table ready’ state before they were analysed. As a consequence, both raw and cooked foods were examined.

          ANZFA coordinated the survey while the States and Northern Territory purchased and prepared the food samples. The Australian Government Analytical Laboratories (AGAL) carried out all analyses.

          Sixty-five types of foods representative of the Australian diet were tested for pesticide residues, contaminants and other substances from foods sampled during July and November 2000 and February and April 2001. These food types incorporate foods central to the Australian diet (core foods), foods that might be expected to show regional variation of residue, contaminant or other substance levels (regional foods), and foods that are available nationwide and are not expected to show regional variation (national foods). These food types were sampled in each of the States and the Northern Territory 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, carbamates and fungicides; as well as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, selenium, tin and zinc. Breads, biscuits, rice, oats, processed wheat bran, breakfast cereals (including infant cereal), instant coffee, peanut butter, almonds and milk chocolate were tested for aflatoxins (B1, B2, G1 and G2) and ochratoxin A. A range of meats, dairy products, eggs, offal meat and infant formula were tested for inhibitory substances (penicillin G, streptomycin and oxytetracycline).

          Dietary exposures to pesticide residues, contaminants and other substances were estimated for six age–gender groups. These age-gender groups were infants (9 months), toddlers (2 years), girls (12 years), boys (12 years), adult females (25-34 years), and adult males (25-34 years). Each food in the survey was chemically analysed to measure the levels of pesticide residues, contaminants and other substances. Representative age-gender groups were selected and individual diets for these groups were examined, based on food consumption data from the 1995 National Nutrition Survey (NNS). Dietary exposure to each pesticide residue and metal2 was estimated using the food consumption data and the level of substance present in each food.

          The estimated dietary exposure to each chemical from the Australian diet was compared to Australian health standards (Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, December 2001). In those cases where there were no Australian health standards, international health standards were used.

          Results

          The key results from the survey are:

          • The estimated dietary exposures to antimony, arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, copper, selenium, zinc and tin were within acceptable health standards. Analytical techniques with a lower limit of reporting for antimony and mercury were instituted for this survey and as a result a more refined dietary exposure estimate for these contaminants was achieved than in the 19th survey.

          • Aflatoxins (B1, B2, G1 and G2) and ochratoxin A were not found in any food tested, namely: breads, biscuits, rice, oats, processed wheat bran, breakfast cereals (including infant cereal), instant coffee, peanut butter, almonds and milk chocolate.

          • A range of meats, dairy products, eggs, offal meat and infant formula were tested for inhibitory substances (penicillin G, streptomycin and oxytetracycline). These substances were not detected in any of these foods.

          • The estimated dietary exposures to pesticide residues were all within acceptable health standards.

          Conclusion

          In conclusion, the 20th ATDS, conducted between July 2000 and April 2001, confirms the overall safety of the Australian food supply and demonstrates that pesticide residues, metals, and selected antibiotics, aflatoxins and ochratoxins are either absent or present in low amounts.

          Report recommendations

          It is recommended that:

          • method development be undertaken to achieve lower LORs for antimony, arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. This would allow a more accurate and refined estimate of dietary exposure to be presented in future total diet surveys

          • in future surveys, tin analyses be focussed on canned foods

          • analyses of antimony, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, selenium and zinc, continue to be undertaken in future surveys so that dietary exposure assessments can be undertaken for these substances

          • future surveys should continue to monitor aflatoxins and ochratoxins but this should be targeted to specific foods where these toxins are more likely to be found

          • pesticide residues should continue to be monitored to determine dietary exposure to pesticide residues. Over a number of surveys, a large amount of data relating to pesticide residues has been collected, with the estimated dietary exposures to pesticide residues being well below that of the respective health standards (ADIs). As a consequence, it is recommended that monitoring of pesticide residues be undertaken at a lower frequency in future surveys

          • monitoring of pesticide residues in future total diet surveys should focus on those chemicals for which there are no recent data and should not be limited to those chemicals registered for use in Australia.


          1 The term “other substances” refers to aflatoxins B1, B2, G1 and G2, and ochratoxin A.

          2 The term “metals” has been used to encompass antimony, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, tin and zinc. Both arsenic and antimony are metalloids and selenium is a non-metal (Bentor 1996-2000) but are grouped with metals for simplicity.

            19th Australian Total Diet Study​

            Downloads

            Summary

            The Australian Total Diet Survey, formerly known as the Australian Market Basket Survey, is Australia' s most comprehensive assessment of consumers' dietary exposure to pesticide residues and contaminants. The survey is conducted approximately every two years, and this is the 19th such survey.

            The survey estimates the level of dietary exposure for Australian consumers to a range of pesticide residues and contaminants through the testing of food samples representative of the total diet. These samples were prepared 'table-ready', for example, the potatoes were cooked.

            The survey also provides valuable background data that can be used for the development of food regulatory measures. It is used by the National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals when considering registration of chemical products. Indeed, data from previous surveys were used by ANZFA during the recent Review of the Food Standards Code and were integral to the development of standards in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

            A number of changes have been made by ANZFA in the conduct of the 19th survey. The most obvious change is to the format and presentation of the survey, where a shorter report has been produced with more detailed information provided on the ANZFA website. There have also been a number of changes to the methods for estimating dietary exposure, and in the use of the latest food consumption data derived from the 1995 National Nutrition Survey (NNS).

            In addition to the dietary exposures calculated using results for the 19th ATDS, dietary exposures were also estimated using analytical results from the 1996 AMBS (18th survey) and food consumption data from the 1995 NNS. The results of the 18th survey previously published were based on food consumption data from the 1983 and 1985 National Dietary Surveys. For more information on these recalculated results, see the full 19th Australian Total Diet Survey report.

            The results demonstrate that the levels of pesticide residues and contaminants in our food are very low, and in all cases they are within acceptable safety limits where reliable dietary exposure estimates could be calculated. However, the survey has indicated the need to further investigate the potential for obtaining analyses with a lower limit of reporting for mercury and antimony in food, and to develop more refined dietary exposure models for dithiocarbamate fungicides. These issues will be addressed in future surveys.

            Dietary exposure results were provided in the Appendixes in the 19th ATDS publication. Additional supplementary information is provided on this website.

            Stages of the Australia Total Diet Study

            ATDS general infographic
            ATDS general infographic

            Concept and Design

            We use different information sources to help us decide which substances to include in an ATDS:

            • Current Australian and international scientific and regulatory activities. 
            • Information from state and territory food regulators, expert authorities and advisory groups. 
            • Follow-up testing from previous studies to track changes in dietary exposure to chemicals over time.

            Other factors that help us decide what to look at include:

            • current public health and safety concerns
            • the need for data to support decisions about how food is regulated 
            • new information on the hazards posed by substances, including health-based guidance values
            • findings from other Australian or international surveys
            • emerging food safety issues
            • changing dietary patterns for the Australian population
            • stakeholder priorities and concerns (including the Food Regulation System and members of the public)
            • availability of suitable analytical methods.

            A typical ATDS involves sampling about 100 different food types. Each ATDS has a different food list reflecting current dietary patterns and those that are likely to contain the chemicals being analysed. Consumption data from the National Nutrition Survey helps guide what foods we choose to look at for each ATDS.

            Food Sampling and Analysis

            Food samples are collected in capital cities and selected regional areas in all Australian states and territories. They are purchased from a range of retail outlets including supermarkets, grocers, butchers, poultry shops, seafood markets, cafes and takeaways. Our aim is to capture the foods that reflect the normal purchasing habits of the population.

            Foods are purchased over two sampling periods (i.e. winter and summer) to account for any seasonal variation in the food supply.

            Foods are classified as either regional or national foods. Regional foods are more likely to be produced and sourced locally such as milk, tap water, fresh meat, fruit and vegetables, and may show regional variation in chemical concentrations. National foods (e.g. shelf-stable packaged foods (pasta, rice, cereal) and processed meats) are distributed nationwide and less likely to show regional variation in chemical concentrations. In general, higher numbers of regional food samples are collected.

            We use specialist laboratory services to transport, prepare and analyse food samples.
            Before they are analysed, food samples are prepared to a ready-to-eat state - the same way they would be at home. For example:

            • washing (fruits and vegetables) 
            • removing inedible portions (banana peels, meat and fish bones, seeds)
            • cooking (raw meat, vegetables, rice, pasta)
            • adding hot water (tea, coffee)
            • draining (canned vegetables)

            After food has been prepared, the primary samples (individual food purchases) are combined into composite samples for analysis. Each composite sample is made up of three primary samples from a single state or territory

            For each food type included in the ATDS, multiple samples are collected and analysed for food chemical concentrations (typical range is 4 16 analysed samples per food type).

            Assessing and Managing Risk

            Dietary Exposure Assessment

            Based on the results from the laboratory, we do a dietary exposure assessment using dietary modelling to estimate exposure of different Australian population groups to these chemicals through food and any risk they might pose.

            Dietary exposure assessments are an important part of the ATDS. They translate the chemical concentration data for individual foods into dietary exposure estimates. These estimates help us decide if the amount of chemicals in food is safe, or if we need to investigate further.

            We use food consumption data obtained from the most recent national nutrition survey (2011-13 NNPAS) to inform our dietary exposure assessments.

            Dietary Exposure = food chemical concentration x food consumption amount

            Find out more about dietary exposure assessments.

            Food mapping

            We cant test all foods consumed by the Australian population, so we use mapping to capture the total diet in our estimates of dietary exposure. Mapping is the process of matching the foods analysed in the ATDS to the foods consumed in the NNPAS.

            Mapping:

            Green apples and red apples, peeled or unpeeled, would be grouped into the raw commodity code for apples; or cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese and all other types of ripened cheeses can be grouped in the single code for cheese and cheese products.

            Population groups assessed

            Dietary exposures is usually estimated for the Australian population as whole. Based on the currently available food consumption data, this is for Australians 2 years and above. If our dietary exposure assessment identifies a concern for a particular population sub-group, (i.e. children, infants or women of child bearing age), these groups may be assessed separately in the dietary exposure assessment to make sure the food is safe for these groups.

            Risk characterisation

            We look at information about the exposure to chemicals through food to determine what the risk is to Australian consumers. For the ATDS, this usually involves comparing estimated dietary exposure estimates to HBGVs or other relevant health-based levels.

            What we do with results

            If we identify concerns, we follow this up with actions such as:

            • Targeted surveys or investigations  
            • Standards development work (i.e. proposals)
            • Consultation with relevant government authorities and industry  
            • Development of advice and other communication materials  

            The ATDS also gives us useful insights into trends in chemicals in food and dietary exposure over time. Findings can also be compared to overseas studies to provide an international context.
            ATDS data is incorporated into Australias reference nutrient database, the Australian Food Composition Database, and other international databases which are used to inform international food safety risk analysis and our standards setting work.

            The ATDS does not replace the need for targeted surveillance activities. It only provides a general indication of the levels of various chemicals across a broad range of foods in the general food supply. We use it to make estimates of Australian consumers dietary exposure - it does not investigate individual food products or regional areas and cannot be directly used for:

            • Compliance and enforcement activity
            • Regional investigations (such as local contamination concerns)
            • Determining the distribution of substances in the food supply, a requirement for establishing regulatory limits such as maximum levels (MLs)

            Related links

            Page last updated 25 January 2024