Grains Research and Development

Date: 01.06.2003

Growers do good job keeping residues down by Rada Rouse

Good news for consumers and growers - pesticide residues are very low across the board.

PESTICIDE RESIDUES in the diet due to grain protectants have dropped markedly in Australia over the past decade, research suggests.

Results of the 20th Australian Total Diet Survey show that many other contaminants in our foodstuffs are also low, with no detection of aflatoxins at all in cereal products.

The biennial survey, released in February this year, reflects testing of 65 commonly eaten foods, prepared to "table ready" state before analysis.

"The residues are very low across tbe board," survey coordinator Rob Keane said.

"Although we have a need for grain protectants in our climate, their use is now extremely targeted and efficient. All tbe factors that come into play, including storage and transportation, have been improved, so tbat we're now seeing the benefits of very low residues in foods."

Mr Keane, an analytical chemist with Food Standards Australia New Zealand, said the results for residues in infant foods were regarded as particularly important: mixed infant cereal, infant dessert, strained infant dinner and infant formula are estimated to account for just over half the energy intake in a baby's diet.

Residues of tbe organophosphorus grain protectant pirimiphos-metbyl were found in two of the nine analytical samples of infant cereal. However, the levels were close to the lowest level able to be detected, Mr Keane said.

Estimated dietary exposures to pesticides are generally higher in the toddler age category, because of their high food consumption relative to body weight. Over all age groups, residues from pesticides used. on grain crops have plummeted in foods.

"In 1992, looking at fenitrotbion, we were at 20 per cent of tbe acceptable daily intake across all foods," Mr Keane said. "If you look at tbe numbers in this survey, fenitrothion barely rates, as it's around I per cent across all foods."

In addition, breads, biscuits, rice, oats, processed wheat bran, breakfast cereals and peanut butter, among otbers, were tested for aflatoxins (BI, B2, GI and G2) and ochratoxin A, with none being found.

"The best means of controlling tbe presence of aflatoxins and ochratoxins in animal feeds and food is through good agricultural and manufacturing practices that prevent fungal growth," tbe survey report said.

The next survey was likely to decrease monitoring of pesticide residues in favour of a new focus on dietary exposure to preservatives, additives and colours, designed to better inform tbe development of food standards, he said.

The full report can be found at www.foodstandards.gov.au and residue surveys can be seen at www.nrs.gov.au