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Pesticide survey results

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The Minister for Health, Senator Sir Kenneth

Anderson, today released the findings of a nation-wide survey carried out to determine how much pesticide residue is contained in the average Australian diet.

The survey, known as a "market basket" survey, was

carried out during 1970 by Commonwealth and State health authorities and the Department of Customs and Excise, with a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

It involved the random sampling of food available

in stores in all State capitals during the four seasons of the year and meant the purchasing and testing of a two weeks' supply of food for a daily 4,000 calorie diet of a hypothetical

15 to 18 year old Australian male.

The food samples were prepared and cooked at the

Emily McPherson College· in Melbourne and tested at Customs Department Laboratories to determine the pesticide residue which

such a person would consume during a two week period.

Senator Anderson said the report of the survey

had been examined by the 73rd Session of the National Health and Medical Research Council. The survey had shown "that, in general, the nature of pesticides residues would not exceed acceptable figures and that no hazard to health existed.

However, the survey report had also shown that in two cases residues which may occur could lead to a potential health


The report said that a seed dressing, HCB (hexachlorobenzene), which should not be present in any food, was being consumed. HCB is used as a fungicide seed dressing

for wheat. Over 80 per cent of all seed wheat planted is

treated with HCB each year. The survey report said the use of seed wheat treated with HCB for stock food led to the residues

detected in food.


The intake of dieldrin, an insecticide used ' on some vegetable and fruit crops, was also shown to be higher

than considered desirable.

The N.H. ξ M.R.C. had accordingly recommended

to the Commonwealth and State authorities that there is a need for the controls over HCB and dieldrin to be stringently enforced. The Council says that the responsible State and Territory authorities should consider imposing penalties for improper use of these pesticides.

In addition, Council recommended that to protect public health, a further survey should be conducted in two years time to determine the levels of residues of HCB and dieldrin still occurring in food.

Another recommendation by the N.H. ξ M.R.C. concerns the use of certain types of pottery which may be a health hazard due to the release of lead from the pottery glaze.

The Council has recommended Commonwealth and State legislation to prohibit the sale of pottery food and drink utensils which may be a health hazard in this way, and the labelling with a warning of glazing formulations containing


The Council said that amateur or handicraft potters should not apply glazes bearing lead to the insides of food and drink utensils unless they are able to ensure

that the techniques they employ preclude the subsequent release of unsafe amounts of lead from the glaze.

The types of foods which can cause lead to release from such pottery are acid foods such as fruit juice, soft drinks, wines, cider, vinegar, sauerkraut and


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Canberra, November 4, 1971 Dept. No. 62