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Pesticides in WA fresh produce too high, report finds

July 2, 2015
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Pesticide residue left in West Australian produce has reached unacceptable levels, and is much higher than the national standard, an auditor-general report has found.

In two of the last three WA Department of Health food monitoring testing programs 11 per cent of local produce contained residue levels exceeding acceptable standards.

The department conducts tests for pesticide residue in local meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and grains every two years.

A program conducted using food samples from across Australia found less than 1 per cent breached acceptable levels.

The Department of Health said it recorded higher rates because it sampled produce more likely to be exposed to increased pesticide use, compared to the samples used in the national monitoring program.

But in his report, auditor-general Colin Murphy said the department did not adequately follow up on the incidents to understand or address the causes.

“Licensing and inspection processes need to be strengthened for some high-risk licence categories,” the report said.

“Results of monitoring and inspection programs need better follow up to ensure appropriate action is taken and agencies could better plan and coordinate inspection and monitoring activities to make use of their scarce resources.”

When a sample exceeds accepted pesticide residue limits, the department informs the local government from where the sample originated, which then follows up the matter with the grower.

Mr Murphy said there was no other formal analysis or reporting of the results, industry was not provided any feedback and the results were not used to inform other compliance programs.

Mr Murphy was also critical of the both the Health Department and the Department of Agriculture and Food for rarely carrying out legislatively-required inspections of licensed pesticide permit holders to check if they are being managed correctly.

He recommended the Health Department ensured all results from the food monitoring program were appropriately followed up by local governments by the end of the year.

He also advised the Pesticides Advisory Committee to formalise a process to ensure information collection is coordinated and results were shared between agencies.

Both departments said they welcomed the findings of the report.

Published by the ABC, 01/07/2015