According to a recent analysis of a government study, New Zealand baby food contained nearly 800 times more pesticides than baby food in Europe. The analysis results and the perceived risks to New Zealand babies were presented Thursday to the parliament in Wellington by Dr. Meriel Watts of the Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa and Alison White of the Safe Food Campaign. Their comments were in support of a 4,300-signature petition presented to the New Zealand Parliament earlier this year calling for zero tolerance of pesticides in baby food. “We want New Zealand to follow the European directives which basically stipulate a zero tolerance policy,” White stated. “Three of the pesticides found in New Zealand baby food are hazardous for young children and babies in the womb. Kiwi babies deserve the same level of protection as they have in the EU.” The study analysis showed that more than 30 percent of New Zealand baby food contained pesticide residues while less than 1 percent (0.04 percent) of European baby food did so. Five pesticides were detected in 32 baby food samples of the last NZ Total Diet Survey of 2009, which included testing of formula, cereal based, custard/fruit and savory weaning foods. The EU analysis of 2,062 baby foods showed residues in only 0.04 percent of samples in 2010. “Some of the pesticides found are carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, for which no safe level has been scientifically established, and doses thousands of times lower than those generally considered toxic are known to interfere with normal human development,” White said. “Children have unique windows of vulnerability which adults do not have,” Watts said. “Extremely low doses which may not have an immediate effect on adults can critically interfere with children’s ongoing developmental processes. This may result in lifelong alterations in growth and development, organ formation, as well as disease occurrence. One of the key outcomes of exposure to even tiny amounts of pesticides like chlorpyrifos is lowered IQ and delayed development.” Watts, senior scientist for the Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific, published a book last year entitled, “Poisoning Our Future: Children and Pesticides,” in which she compiled research about why children are at risk from pesticides, even from very low doses. The Safe Food Campaign also believes that the New Zealand government should do a more extensive analysis of baby food. “More extensive and regular surveys need to be done of baby food not only to monitor the proposed legislation but also to provide a more adequate baseline for comparison over time and with other countries,” White said.

According to New Zealand Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew, that country’s food safety system is “world class.” She has promised to investigate the issue.