Food safety report warns on organic fertilisers


THE FOOD Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has called for tighter controls on the use of organic fertilisers on Irish farms, warning of possible contamination of ready-to-eat food.

In a report released yesterday, the FSAI said that while the use of organic, municipal and industrial materials (OMI) was very small in relation to farm-generated fertiliser (OA), trends indicated a significant increase in the use of treated OMI materials in agriculture in Ireland.

The report said ready-to-eat produce (food not cooked before consumption) posed a particular food safety risk when land on which they were grown was spread with OA or OMI materials.

The Pesticide Action Network (PAN Europe) has claimed that food products sold in the European Union now contained more than 350 different pesticides, the highest total level ever recorded.

According to an advance copy of the annual EU-wide pesticide residue-monitoring report, seen by PAN Europe, 49 per cent of fruits, vegetables and cereals contain pesticides, representing an increase of about 20 per cent over the past five years.

In addition, 4.7 per cent of fruits, vegetables and cereals contain pesticides at concentrations above the maximum legal limits.

Five of the pesticides most common in food are classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or disruptive to the hormonal system, with 71 per cent of grapes and 56 per cent of bananas listed as contaminated, according to the network.

Grace Maher, development officer for the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association, said pesticides accumulated in the body. Even though the human body was an intricate machine, it was not designed to break down and excrete these toxins to the same degree that humans were consuming them.

According to the Department of Agriculture, risk assessments are carried out on all pesticide residues exceeding the legal limit, with the food item removed from the market if there is an unacceptable risk to consumers.

On the question of possible fertiliser contamination, FSAI deputy chief executive Alan O'Reilly said: "There are gaps in current knowledge concerning the transfer of chemical contaminants and pathogens into the food chain through land-spreading of OMI materials on agricultural land used for food production."