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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1850

Ms GRIERSON (Newcastle) (20:34): I rise to speak on the member for Barker's private member's motion on the importation of orange juice concentrate and the use of Carbendazim. It is clear that all the speakers are genuinely concerned about any potential risk to Australians from the pesticides used on imported consumables. We have very high standards in this country and we need to look at how we deal with any such risk in Australia.

In January this year it was reported that the US Food and Drug Administration had temporarily banned Brazilian orange imports due to the discovery of low levels of the pesticide Carbendazim. The United States Environmental Protection Agency are yet to establish an acceptable standard for that pesticide within their imported goods.

Back here in Australia, in 2007, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority received advice from the Department of Health and Ageing's Office of Chemical Safety and Environmental Health division that exposure to the pesticide may have associated health risks. Some of the speakers have outlined those. In January 2010 the authority suspended the pesticide's use within our domestic citrus industry. Unlike the US, however, Australia currently has in place a maximum residue limit that allows for the presence of Carbendazim within imported citrus products at 10 parts per million. The levels found within our imported orange juice are well below this level at around 0.1 parts per million. Food Standards Australia New Zealand is yet to raise any concern regarding the presence of the pesticide in the orange juice that Australians consume. It has in fact indicated that an adult would have to drink 140 litres of orange juice in a single day in order to exceed the safety limit. We love our orange juice in Newcastle and around Australia, but it is a fair bet that nobody will be drinking 140 litres of orange juice in one day anytime soon. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority are in consultation with Food Standards Australia New Zealand in order to develop advice regarding a suitable limit for Carbendazim within our food that allows for trade to continue. Some may ask why we import orange juice at all. The fact remains, according to Fruit Juice Australia, a division of the Australian Beverages Council, that Australia's orange crop is approximately 200,000 tonnes short of what would be required to meet the market demand and produce 100 per cent home-grown orange juice. This is due to a range of factors, including seasonal variability. Australia's juice-manufacturing industry is therefore highly dependent upon importing frozen orange juice concentrate from countries such as Brazil. Australia currently imports 32,000 tonnes of frozen concentrate, two-thirds of which comes from Brazil. As a net exporter of citrus juice, the US is in a position to take measures such as banning the import of Brazilian orange juice concentrate; on the other hand, being able to domestically supply only 45 per cent of the orange juice industry's needs, Australia cannot.

In August 2004, one of the world's eight bulk juice terminals, located in my electorate of Newcastle, received its first cargo shipment of frozen orange juice concentrate. At that time it was anticipated to handle approximately one-third of our nation's orange juice imports. In its first year of operation, 9,572 kilolitres of frozen orange juice concentrate were imported from Brazil to be stored in Newcastle's Carrington facility—the equivalent of almost four Olympic sized swimming pools. Every three to four months, a shipment of frozen orange juice concentrate from Brazil arrives by ship into Newcastle port and the concentrate is stored in tanks at Carrington. Newcastle port operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, managing almost 4,000 ship movements each year, employing almost 2,000 people. Along with Newcastle's unrivalled coal-exporting facilities, the import of frozen orange juice concentrate is one of the diverse port activities that employs locals in my electorate of Newcastle.

The member's motion highlights the importance of having adequate testing in place to ensure public health and safety, and I am confident that the appropriate measures are currently in place and that Food Standards Australia New Zealand are putting the interests of the public's health at the forefront of their decisions. It is also worthy of mention that countries like Brazil are making great strides in bringing their standards higher. We encourage that and support that, and at this time we do not want to compromise on that important trade between the two nations. It is good to speak on the motion. It is good to make sure that people are not alarmed unnecessarily and it is good to know that the Australian government are dealing with this issue.