Technical Report No. 8
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Department of the Environment and Heritage, May 2004
ISBN 0 642 55000 X
This study was a component of the National Dioxins Program that was tasked to quantify and assess the concentrations and relative chemical compositions of dioxin-likechemicals in Australian agricultural commodities.
Levels of dioxins in Australia’s meat, milk and fish are low and compare favourably with overseas products in terms of dioxin contamination. None of the samples (collected and analysed in 2002-2003) contained dioxin levels exceeding the European Union (EU) standard.
In August 2000, the then Standing Committee on Agriculture and Resource Management, SCARM, (now the Primary Industries Standing Committee [PISC ]) agreed to a co ordinated strategy for dioxin testing. The primary objective of the testing was to provide baseline data to help maintain market access for agricultural products, following a dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) crisis in Belgium. Australia did not have any monitoring data for dioxins in agricultural products, or a domestic health standard for dioxin intake.
The framework for the Dioxins Testing Program for Australian Agricultural Commodities was developed by the PISC Dioxins Working Group. The objective of the group was to:
“safeguard consumer health and protect Australia’s export markets in regards to dioxin contamination of food and food ingredients through the collection of prevalence data of dioxins in Australia’s agricultural produce.”
The commodity groups subsequently involved in the testing program include cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, aquaculture fish and milk. The Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF ) obtained financing for the testing program through a joint arrangement between the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) and the participating industry bodies.
The National Residue Survey (NRS), managed by DAFF , arranged for the collection of meat, fish and milk samples during November and December 2002. The collection of milk samples was organised by the Australian Dairy Industry Council. AgriQuality New Zealand, an analytical laboratory with extensive dioxin testing experience, was contracted to carry out the analysis of around 220 samples for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs.
A Dioxins Technical Group (DTG) was established under PISC to assist with the interpretation of results and to provide recommendations for further action. Results of the Australian study for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs across all commodities tested, compared favourably to international data reported from other countries.
In the absence of an Australian commodity standard for dioxins and furans, Australian data were compared against the EU standard in EU Regulation (EC ) No 2375/2001. A summary of results follows:
|Species||EU Standard Maximum pg TEQ/g*||Mean** result from this study (%)||Number of Samples|
|Fish (Salmonids)||4||0.23 (5.7%)||10|
|* on a fat basis except for fish where it is expressed on a fresh weight basis (ie. muscle meat of fish and fishery products and products thereof).
** mean results are upperbound concentrations expressed as pg TEQ/g. Values in parentheses are expressed as a percentage of the EU standard for that species.
It is important to note that the EU standard in EU Regulation (EC ) No. 2375/2001 only refers to dioxins/furans, and that dioxin-like PCBs are not currently included. It is expected that in the future, a new EU standard will encompass dioxin-like PCBs, and that when this occurs, the expectation is that current commodity levels (maximum pg TEQ/g) will increase to accommodate these additional congeners.
Consistent with international reporting practice, results were reported in terms of both lowerbound and upperbound levels. Upperbound levels represent the sum of detected congeners multiplied by the relevant Toxic Equivalency Factor (TEF), plus the sum of the Limit of Detection (LOD ) contributions for non-detected congeners also multiplied by the relevant TEF.
For the majority of results, the assumption of non-detects being at the LOD was the major contributor to the upperbound levels. Although differences were observed between commodities, only low levels of actual dioxins and dioxin-like PCB congeners were detected relative to reported levels and standards overseas. The DTG noted the significant contribution that LOD s made to upperbound results and recommended that any future testing for dioxins address this important laboratory analytical issue.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ ) is the appropriate authority for the assessment of consumer exposure through foodstuffs. The DTG recommended that the detailed data collected in this study be provided to FSANZ for the purpose of dietary risk assessment for Australian consumers.