Pesticide testing on fruit & veg in New Zealand
Updated: Aug 24
One of the most detrimental health effects of our time is the exposure to thousands of chemicals, that were never before experienced by previous generations.
Many of those substances are known to be toxic to humans as well as the environment.
What exactly pesticides do to our health, depends on the type, the amounts we consume, how many different ones we are exposed to as well as our unique DNA.
The fact is, we are exposed to many different chemicals every single day. Some studies will tell us what a single chemical can do to our health - but there are no studies that can show us how the consumption of many different chemicals over many years will affect us.
In New Zealand, testing for pesticides is very far and between. The latest survey was released in April 2020.
A total of 591 fruit and vegetable samples were collected and analysed for traces of pesticides in a 2-year food residues survey from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2019.
All samples were for the NZ market. Foods were randomly sampled from New Zealand retailers, importers or wholesalers based on market availability.
The agrichemicals analysed includes insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. Unfortunately, they were not tested for glyphosate levels.
Here are the results of the survey.
These were the fruit & veggies tested:
Out of the 591 samples, 977 pesticides were detected and 49 were over the allowed limit set by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI):
Below are the 49 samples that were over the allowed limit. Most of them came from within NZ and a few of the beans were imported.
MRL = Maximum Residue Levels
FSANZ = Food Standards Australia New Zealand
Below are all the pesticides found on spinach samples alone. As you can see, there were 12 pesticides detected (including the over-the-allowed-limit ones from the table above).
Pesticides in Spinach:
Some NZ growers remain unaware of the maximum residue levels and continue to apply substances no longer permitted. It is left up to the growers to ensure they comply with the standards set out by the MPI.
Non-compliant samples exceeding the MRL but not posing a food safety risk, are followed up with the grower or importer, ranging from written notification of their results to telephone interviews - which doesn't seem quite enough to me.
Even so the amounts of pesticides found are mostly small, what concerns me most is the accumulative effect they have if eaten over many years.
Unlike the USA, where the EWG tests fruit & veggies for pesticides every year, New Zealand tests only sporadically. Therefore, we really can't know for sure what we are getting on our food if we buy conventional produce.
All we can hope for, is that the growers know what they are allowed to spray. If you are not willing to take that gamble it is best to buy organic produce whenever possible.
MPI Food Residues Survey Programme: https://www.mpi.govt.nz/dmsdocument/40274-2017-2019-plant-based-foods-survey-final-report
Chlothianidin and other neonicotinoid insecticides : https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/risk/docs/guidance/gw/clothinfo.pdf