Thursday, May 23, 2013

Food Quality and Safety - Luck or Vigilance in Australia?

Australians like to believe we have excellent food quality and safety standards.  That is probably so, although there have been a few incidents in the past, say ten years, over some processed smallgoods in which some people died, and an occassional salmonella issue, particularly with poultry.

Overall mark - a tick.

Yet issues about Chinese food quality and safety continue to make headlines - not only in China but around the world.

Most recent - the issue of cadmium contamination in rice in southern China, which is making headlines this week.  Yesterday, Government officials in southern China sought to calm public ire about toxic substances menacing the region's main food staple, rice, after the city of Guangzhou said that nearly half the rice tested [44%] at restaurants this year had excessive cadmium, a heavy metal that can cause cancer and other illnesses.  Cadmium contamination in the body is one of the reasons why there is a major international recall and removal / replacement issues with a particular hip joint prothesis, so cadmium can be nasty, and high levels potentially fatal. 

Food is an obvious source of all heavy metals in the body, with a lot of historical precedents, as the cause of heavy metal problems in people.  Cadmium is one of those heavy metals, which just continue to accumulate in the body. 

Whie there is heavy industrialisation in China, and air pollution, the source of the cadmium is so far unidentified.

In Australia cadmium in foods is partially regulated through restrictions on the cadmium levels in fertilisers, especially superphosate and related phosphorus fertilisers, which can add cadmium to soils, ultimately reaching the products grown on that soil.

We do take our food for granted, not always realising the long chain of regulatory procedures prior to the consumer using the food products.

There has been a vigorous discussion this week on an Australian agribusiness forum about consumer views on use of Chinese food products imported into Australia.  Think major supermarket chains, frozen vegetables, fresh garlic, and other products.  Consumers in Australia are concerned over the intrinsic quality of imported Chinese food, and according to some views are worried that price which dominates supermarket chain thinking, might be compromising food safety.  It is NOT a xenophobic reaction........but one based on quality as well as a fair go for Australian producers.

Maybe we need to boost testing of imported Chinese food products.

And remember, Chinese consumers are buying Australian food products - think milk, among others, and paying more because we are seen as having clean safe food products.

applying superphosate fertiliser to pastures

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