Monitoring pesticide and cadmium residues in fresh fruit and vegetables 1997-2000 report


The efficient and sustainable production of fruit and vegetables in Australia necessitates the control of pests, diseases and weeds. This control is achieved partly through the strategic and cost-effective use of pesticides. The registration of pesticides and the establishment of Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) seek to prescribe the maximum residues that should occur in Australian fruit and vegetable produce when the pesticides are used according to good agricultural practice and the label directions are followed. The establishment of a Maximum Permitted Concentration (MPC) for cadmium in root and leafy vegetables (as well as many other commodities) is the level above which there could be health implications, depending on the intake of the commodity.

NSW Agriculture, the former Horticultural Research and Development Corporation (HRDC) and the former Sydney Market Authority (SMA) have funded previous surveys of pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables taken from the Sydney Markets over the period 1989 to 1996. Between 1989 and 1996 over 98% of all samples met the MRL standard (98.3% in 1989–92, 98.4% in 1992–95 and 98.1% in 1995–96). NSW Agriculture, in joint partnership with the Sydney Market Authority (who became Sydney Markets Limited, (SML) July 1997), have continued the monitoring of fruit and vegetables from 1997 to 2000 to provide further information on the occurrence of pesticide and cadmium residues in produce sourced from the Sydney Markets.

This report details the results of the pesticide residue and cadmium monitoring program in horticultural commodities passing through the Sydney Markets in Sydney, NSW from January, 1997 to May, 2000. Only the summary is presented here. For the full report or more information please contact:
Sandra Hardy, District Horticulturist (Fruit), Gosford.

Summary of the 1997–2000 survey

Some 1501 samples comprising 48 different fresh fruit and vegetables were purchased from Sydney Markets between January, 1997 and May, 2000 and analysed for the residues of 26 pesticides and the heavy metal cadmium (not all samples were tested for all chemicals).

Pesticide residues were either absent or complied with the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) in 95.3% of samples. Only 70 samples (4.7%) contained 74 pesticide residues which exceeded the MRL, with another 34 samples with residues between 50 and 100% MRL.

Of the violations in which a traceback was successful the MRLs for pesticides were exceeded in produce for the following reasons:

  • the incorrect use of pesticides on crops for which they were registered including poor calibration, cleaning and application, incorrect label rates, not adhering to the withholding period (WHP) (31 residues, 41.89% of violations)
  • the use of pesticides on crops for which they were not registered (6 residues, 8.11% of violations).
  • spray drift from other crops/applications (5 residues, 6.67% of samples).
  • the uptake of persistant organochlorine residues from the soil (4 residues, 5.41% of violations)

Of the 183 samples analysed for the heavy metal cadmium, only 2 (1.09% of samples) were above the Maximum Permitted Concentration (MPC) for cadmium. This shows a further decline from the 1992–95 data of 2.7%.

Table 1 Summary of Results (excluding cadmium)

  Fruit Vegetables Total
Number of samples 631 870 1501
Number of samples with no detections 465 483 948
Number of samples with detections 166 387 553
Number of residues detected 188 362 550
Number of residues over the limit of detection to 50% MRL 157 285 442
Number of residues over 50% MRL to the MRL 10 24 34
Number of samples over MRL 21 53 74