With the full set of results from this year’s Total Diet Study in hand, the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) says the average Kiwi diet poses no safety concerns from chemical residues or contaminants.
The five-yearly study has tested residue levels in 123 commonly eaten foods as a first step towards estimating New Zealanders’ dietary exposure to chemical residues, contaminants and selected nutrients.
NZFSA project manager Cherie Flynn says all the foods have been sampled and tested twice, with all results from the fourth quarter as expected.
“We are finding traces of pesticides and other chemical contaminants, and we expected that because laboratory equipment is getting more sophisticated and tests more sensitive. We can pick up residues at levels well below those that would have been detected in the past,” Cherie says.
“After carrying out more than 250,000 analyses on food samples in this year’s Total Diet Study, there have been a very small number of issues that required further investigation, and none of those posed a health risk to consumers. These were addressed by reminding growers and manufacturers of the need to follow good agricultural and manufacturing practices.”
With the full set of analytical results available, work will start on dietary assessments to estimate different age-sex groups’ exposure to chemical residues, contaminants and selected nutrients from simulated diets.
“This is the real purpose of the Total Diet Study as it gives us a picture of the exposure of different categories of consumers to these substances,” Cherie says.
Sampling for the fourth quarter of the study was carried out after if became mandatory for bakers to replace ordinary salt with iodised salt in bread. “Our dietary exposure estimates will give us an early indication of whether people’s iodine intake has improved because of this fortification effort.”
In addition, given both NZFSA and the Ministry of Health have been encouraging consumers to decrease salt in their diets in a bid to combat heart and blood vessel disease, Cherie says it will also be interesting to see how much salt people get through their diet.
“We will be looking at whether our messages are starting to impact people’s sodium intake.”
Simulated or typical diets have been developed for eight age-sex groups using the representative foods sampled and analysed over the last year. The proportion of each food in the simulated two-week diet is based on actual consumption data. The simulated diets are now available from the NZFSA website.
The full Total Diet Study report is expected to be released in late 2010.
For the 2009 Total Diet Study fourth quarter results, as well as results from the other three quarters, see:
2009 New Zealand Total Diet Study