Friends of the Earth has produced a new report investigating breaches to Australian food import regulations between the years 2017-2019. The data was compiled by analysing data published in Monthly Failing Food Reports produced by the Department of Agriculture.
The main findings include:
There was a total of 400 pesticide detections at or above Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) between 2017-19, with a total of 47 different pesticides breaching MRLs. Many food consignments had multiple pesticide breaches.
China was the country with the most pesticide breaches (148), followed by India (93), Vietnam (44) and Thailand (35). These 4 countries represented 80% of the pesticide breaches. 37% were from China alone.
The most commonly detected of the 47 pesticides breaching MRL’s were: Carbendazim (53), Chlorpyrifos (52), Difenconazole (37), Cyhalothrin (31), Tebuconazole (23), Cypermethrin (21), Profenofos (19) and Acephate (19). These 8 pesticides represent 63.75% of all pesticide detections breaching MRL’s.
201 of the pesticide breaches were insecticides, with 199 of the pesticides being fungicides. No herbicides were detected by AQIS over the 3 year period. (Only 4 herbicides were tested for by the Department of Agriculture). The most frequently used pesticide in the world, Glyphosate was not tested for.
China dominated fungicide MRL breaches, whilst India dominated insecticide MRL breaches.
132 companies exported food to Australia which breached pesticide MRL’s over the 3 year period. The highest number of pesticide breaches were associated with Chinese based Zhangzhou Xinmingxing Trading Co Ltd (China) 28, Innovative Cuisine (India) 24 and Vadilal Industries Limited (India) 24.
Chinese based companies dominated the list of companies breaching MRL’s with ~39% of companies being Chinese.
Jujube/Chinese Date: Recorded most breaches to MRL's. Jujube are often touted as having a number of health benefits, yet is grown with the use of a number of fungicides.
Food types with the most MRL breaches included: Jujube/Chinese Dates (mainly grown in China, but also Korea) 69, Red Chilli (mainly grown in Thailand and Vietnam) 40, Lychees (China/Vietnam) 35, Spinach (China/India) 28, Longan (Thailand/Vietnam) 17, Okra (India) 17, Green Chilli’s (India/Vietnam) 14, Indian Flat Beans (India) 13.
The highest breaching sample was a Lychee Sample from China, where the fungicide Iprodione was detected 100 times over the MRL. The export company involved was Zhangzhou Xinmingxing Trading.
235 (~59% of all pesticides) of the pesticides breaching MRL’s are defined by the Pesticide Action Network as being “Bad Actors”, pesticides known to be carcinogens, reproductive or developmental toxins, cholinesterase inhibitors, groundwater contaminants or pesticides with high acute toxicity.
Carbendazim is a broad spectrum, systemic fungicide for the control of certain fungal diseases. Carbendazim is a possible human carcinogen. It has been linked to infertility, testicular damage and liver tumours in laboratory animals. Carbendazim was banned in Europe in 2009. It has been banned in Australia for a number of uses.
Chlorpyrifos targets the nervous system of insects, but it is also moderately toxic to humans. It is very toxic to birds and insects, including bees. Chlorpyrifos has been linked to adverse brain development in unborn children and reduced IQ, loss of memory and attention deficit disorders in children. It has also been associated with measurable cognitive deficits and developmental delays in children exposed during early fetal and infant development. Some scientists believe that no level of chlorpyrifos is safe.