04.Lax approach to imports
With increasing globalisation, fresh food imports are growing and we now import fresh fruit and vegetables worth more than $180 million a year.
The approach to testing local produce seems lax enough (see How well is your food tested?
), but there are also concerns that imported produce, some of which comes from countries known to have a less stringent approach than Australia to the use of agricultural chemicals, may be contaminated with pesticides that either aren’t permitted here or are at unsafe levels.
Supporting this concern, surveys in the UK have found its imported food is more likely to contain detectable levels of pesticide residues than its local produce.
However, 95% of imported fruit and vegetables come into the country with no independent testing for pesticide residues.
The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) is responsible for ensuring that imports comply with the Food Standards Code. A small ‘snapshot’ survey found no imports with pesticides in excess of the MRL, but AQIS normally only tests a small number of consignments, and then only for a limited range of pesticides.