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NZ ministry investigating chemical residue in kiwifruit

By RJ Whitehead , 09-Apr-2013

New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries is working with the kiwifruit industry and the supplier of a range of organically-certified citrus-based products following the unexpected discovery of very low residues of a chemical in some organic kiwifruit pre-harvest.

The DDAC (didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride) compound was first found on the fruit and further investigation has revealed some products sold by Citrox NZ and authorised as suitable for use in organic production have been contaminated with the chemical.

Not safety issue

MPI’s director of agricultural compounds and veterinary medicines, Debbie Morris, says it is important consumers understand first and foremost that this is not a food safety issue.

DDAC is commonly used in both food production and in healthcare as a sanitiser. It is even used to purify drinking water. It is not, however, allowed to be used in organically-certified products and should not be present in the Citrox products that are widely used by organic growers.

The residue levels that have been found in kiwifruit are below levels allowed for this compound by a number of importing countries.

We are currently working closely with Zespri to determine the scale of this issue and to ensure no fruit with residues is sold as organic – either domestically or internationally,” Morris said.

MPI is confident in Zespri’s assurances that harvesting is only just beginning, no organic fruit with DDAC residues has been exported, and all market requirements have been and will continue to be met.”

Sampling and testing

Morris added that the ministry is in the process of agreeing with the industry the finer details of a sampling and testing programme to confirm the organic status, or otherwise, of kiwifruit.

Citrox NZ has notified the kiwifruit industry that DDAC has been found in some batches of Citrox BioAlexin and asked growers to stop using the product. Zespri has also advised growers to stop using Citrox BioAlexin while more information is gathered.

MPI is looking at how this contamination products may have occurred and where products have been sold. 

This situation is evidence that the systems industry has in place do work. Zespri’s co-operation has enabled MPI to take action to ensure food safety is paramount and that our trading partners maintain confidence in our systems and standards for food production,” said Morris.

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