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“Safe to eat? May be not for kids”

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

Children are being exposed to a cocktail of pesticides every time they eat non-organic raisins and sultanas. The latest New Zealand Total Diet Study (NZTDS)(1), released by the Ministry for Primary Industries, showed residues of 24 pesticides in just one sample, and all eight samples tested contained pesticides.

Every five years, the New Zealand Total Diet Study (NZTDS) assesses our exposure to pesticides, contaminants and nutrients. Changes in reporting methods from lower and more delicate ‘limits of detection’ to ‘limits of reporting’ has resulted in a massive non-disclosure of pesticide detections.

A coalition of groups (2) keen to improve food safety in New Zealand is urging action from the government to reduce pesticide residues. Some key features of the survey include:

  • Foods with the greatest number of pesticides: raisins/sultanas (33), grapes (23), strawberries (18), bran flake cereal (16), nectarines (11), frozen mixed berries (10).

  • Notably high levels of aluminium in muffins, scones, cakes and slices.

  • 8 pesticides detected in baby food, in 22% of 32 samples.

  • Neonicotinoid insecticides (known to harm bees) measured for the first time.

  • The fungicide chlorothalonil, classified as a possible human carcinogen, by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) (3) detected in 10 samples, highest level in celery.

  • Glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen (IARC) and a potential reproductive toxin is an active ingredient in weed-sprays, such as Roundup. It is to be tested separately.

“It is extremely concerning that 22% of baby foods tested had pesticides detected.” said Alison White of the Safe Food Campaign.
“We urge the government to have zero tolerance for pesticide residues in baby food, and to carry out a national surveillance programme of pesticide residues in baby food. We expect the safety of baby food to be a priority for our government to focus on.”

“Certain pesticides found in baby food in this study have been found to be linked to cancer progression and endocrine or hormonal disruption,” said Dr Heli Matilainen, cancer researcher and Safe Food Campaign co-governor. “Children (toddlers, babies), due to their actively developing nervous, endocrine and immune systems, are much more vulnerable to these residues than adults. This means that it is not the dose which is critical, but the timing of exposure, because doses thousands of times lower than those normally considered toxic may interfere with children’s development.”

Ms. White advises bakers and consumers to be careful when buying baked goods, as high levels of aluminium were detected in these products. This could be due to an aluminium compound in baking powder, or use of aluminium tins and trays.