A pilot program to monitor pesticides in Australian fruit and vegetables was halted by the Abbott government despite it revealing residues up to 90 times the permitted maximum levels in strawberries.
The research also found levels of pesticides in some peach and apricot samples were “unacceptable from an acute or short-term dietary risk perspective,” meaning eating affected fruit could pose a health risk. The results of the aborted pilot project by the Department of Agriculture in 2013 were obtained through a freedom of information request.
The previous Labor government had agreed with the states to set up the program, but after the 2013 election, the then Nationals’ leader and agriculture minister, Barnaby Joyce, canned it and withdrew the $25m funding.
The government cited budgetary pressures, and the results of the pilot were not released. Unlike the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Europe, there is no regular monitoring of agricultural chemicals in most food sold domestically in Australia.
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