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1 August 2002
The Director of Processed Foods and Retail Sale of the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, Jim Sim, today advised the public not to consume any olive-pomace oils purchased before December 2001 because the products are likely to contain high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
PAHs do not present an acute risk to human health but long term exposure to them has been associated with increased levels of cancer.
Tests commissioned by the NZFSA on four brands of imported olive-pomace oil were found to contain up to 100 times the maximum limit allowed by the United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency. That agency introduced a recommended limit of 2 parts per billion last year after tests on 13 olive-pomace oils found they contained high levels of PAHs.
The olive oils tested in New Zealand were imported from Italy and Spain. The brands tested were Vero olive-pomace oil and Verdeoro olive-pomace oil from Italy and Mi Tierra olive-pomace oil and Coopoliva olive-pomace oil from Spain. New Zealand does not have the capacity to test for PAHs in olive-pomace oils so the tests were carried out in the UK.
This warning relates only to olive-pomace oil. Other grades of olive oil are processed differently and are not affected by PAHs. Olive-pomace oil is not produced in New Zealand.
Mr Sim said importers had confirmed that any olive-pomace oil manufactured after the UK standard was introduced in September last year would now comply with that standard and contain less than 2 parts PAHS per billion as recommended. However some oils produced prior to that date may have found their way to New Zealand.
"As a precautionary measure we are recommending that people throw out any leftover olive-pomace oil bought before last December. The leftover oil should not be tipped down the drain. It should be discarded at the local rubbish dump. At this stage we have not been able to ascertain how widely used olive-pomace oil is. However we do know that it is available through selected retail outlets and is available to the catering and restaurant trade. Importers have assured the NZFSA that it is highly unlikely any product containing high levels of PAHs would still be available for sale now in New Zealand," Mr Sim said.
"In light of the results on the four brands of olive-pomace oil, we will be developing an imported food standard on olive-pomace oil to ensure compliance in the future."