Imported foods pass compliance spot checks

Wednesday 5 May 2010, 7:37AM

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority has released the latest findings from its Imported Food Monitoring Programme.

Assistant director of monitoring and verification Glen Neal says NZFSA’s monitoring programme has put finfish and dried plums to the test.

In the finfish survey, 20 samples of basa, also known as catfish, and one sample of tilapia were tested. It found no detectable levels of antimicrobial residues, except in one sample of basa where the chemical gentian violet was found at a low level of 0.0022mg/kg (2.2 parts per billion). Gentian violet is an antifungal.

“Although the chemical at this level would not pose a risk to consumers, we would not expect to find gentian violet as it is not approved for use in food production here,” Glen says. “We have notified the exporting country’s officials of the find.”

NZFSA has also conducted a small ‘snapshot’ survey of lead in imported dried plums. This work was initiated after Texan authorities reported a problem with unacceptable levels of lead in these products. Testing here found lead at levels ranging from 0.023-1.3mg/kg with five non-compliant results reported.

“According to toxicological assessments none of the non-compliant results present a risk of illness to consumers, but even so we have notified the importers of the non-compliant products,” Glen says. “We are also about to embark on a more extensive survey of heavy metals in a broader range of dried fruit to get a wider picture.”

The monitoring programme for next year is currently being developed.

It is every food importer’s responsibility to ensure the food they import complies with relevant legislation and is safe and suitable including for microbiological pathogens and chemical residues. To check the controls are working NZFSA monitors certain foods for particular hazards. Foods are selected for the monitoring programme that have caused problems for overseas authorities or have been associated with compliance issues here.

This monitoring programme is additional to the routine intervention of high risk foods that are stopped at the border daily and cleared only when the importer demonstrates that they meet requirements.

Results from the imports monitoring programme can be found on our website:

Importing – monitoring and review