Preventing contamination at source
Risks to human health associated with chemical contaminants in the food and feed chain require constant vigilance. Hazards may arise from the natural environment or from inputs applied at the stage of primary production or during further processing. The control of contaminants in staple foods is especially important given their major contribution to the human diet. Factors affecting levels of chemical contaminants in food products are likely to include the history of the growing site, source of fertiliser/organic manure, soil pH, irrigation water and varietal choice.
To help members understand where chemical contaminants originate from and the route by which they can enter food products during primary production, we are conducting an ongoing member-funded project.
We have looked at the presence of chlorate and perchlorate in leafy vegetables (rocket salad leaves and pea shoots). Chlorate has been banned as a pesticide since 2008. Current potential sources include irrigation and other water sources and disinfectants. We will produce guidance to help members minimise levels of these compounds through agronomic interventions, selection of growing sites and cultivar choice.