MPI examines unexpected chemical find in kiwifruit

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The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is working with the kiwifruit industry and the supplier of a range of organically-certified citrus-based products following the unexpected discovery of very low residues of a chemical in some organic kiwifruit pre-harvest.

The compound DDAC was first found on the fruit and further investigation has revealed some products sold by Citrox NZ and authorised as suitable for use in organic production have been contaminated with the chemical.

MPI’s Director of Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines, Debbie Morris, says it is important consumers understand first and foremost that this is not a food safety issue.

DDAC (full name Didecyl Dimethyl Ammonium Chloride) itself is commonly used in both food production and in healthcare as a sanitiser. It is even used to purify drinking water. It is not, however, allowed to be used in organically-certified products and should not be present in the Citrox products that are widely used by organic growers.

“The residue levels that have been found in kiwifruit are below levels allowed for this compound by a number of importing countries.

"We are currently working closely with Zespri to determine the scale of this issue and to ensure fruit that is sold as organic meets the required standards," Ms Morris says.

“MPI is confident in Zespri’s assurances that harvesting is only just beginning, no organic fruit with DDAC residues has been exported, and all market requirements have been and will continue to be met.”

Ms Morris says the Ministry is currently agreeing with industry the finer details of a sampling and testing programme to confirm the organic status, or otherwise, of kiwifruit.

Citrox NZ has notified the kiwifruit industry that DDAC has been found in some batches of Citrox BioAlexin and asked growers to stop using the product. Zespri has also advised growers to stop using Citrox BioAlexin while more information is gathered.

MPI is working with Citrox NZ to determine how this contamination of its products may have occurred and where products have been sold. If people have questions regarding the suitability of Citrox products, MPI advises they contact Citrox NZ directly.

“MPI will continue to provide information on this situation as knowledge grows,” Debbie Morris says.

“This situation is evidence that the systems industry has in place do work. Zespri’s co-operation has enabled MPI to take action to ensure food safety is paramount and that our trading partners maintain confidence in our systems and standards for food production.” 

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