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Biosecurity Estimates: pesticides in strawberries

Estimates & Committees
Christine Milne 12 Sep 2008

STANDING COMMITTEE ON RURAL AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORTBiosecurity Australia Discussion Senator MILNE—I would like to come back to the questions in relation to strawberries. You will recall that at the last estimates I asked some questions about the Choice review of strawberries showing that there were chemical residues in some of the strawberry samples and so on. The department provided some answers. I was a bit concerned to see that one of those reviews has taken six years and nothing was going on. Can you tell me where you are up to with all the chemicals identified, including endosulfan? Dr Bennet-Jenkins—With respect to the chemicals that were under review, the endosulfan review was finished several years ago. The chlorpyrifos review is ongoing and will be finalised this year. That is actually a second part of the review. The original review was already completed. There is often confusion about when we start a review. Because the chemical always is, if you like, under suspicion, you continue to look at it closely. Chlorpyrifos is one of them. So we are progressing them, as I mentioned at the last Senate estimates. Senator MILNE—What does ‘we are progressing them’ mean? They should not have turned up in those strawberry samples. One of them was a prohibited chemical. Is that correct? Mr Magee—I might just add some points to this topic. We did discuss this quite a bit last time. Following that last hearing, the Australian government did quite a bit of follow-up on the matter. There was some further discussion with Choice magazine over their findings and what they put in that previous edition. In the June edition of Choice, they have actually clarified that in fact there was only one violation, not three. They have also clarified that that was for chlorpyrifos, I believe, which is permitted for use on strawberries. So the ones that were prohibited were in fact not violations. Senator MILNE—And the ongoing review of that chemical, you said, will be finished this year. Is that correct? Dr Bennet-Jenkins—Chlorpyrifos review, yes. Senator MILNE—It will be finished this year? Dr Bennet-Jenkins—That will be finished this year. Senator MILNE—I also asked in the health estimates whether strawberries could be included in the range of products that the government will look at this year. They do a grocery basket sort of thing and choose 80 products or thereabouts to just do a random test on. Can you tell me whether strawberries have been included in that since the last estimates? Mr Magee—I think that would be a question for Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Senator. Senator MILNE—So you do not know? Mr Magee—No.

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