A periodic study to give the most comprehensive view of what’s in our food over time has begun, says Scott Gallacher, Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Deputy Director-General Regulation and Assurance.
The New Zealand Total Diet Study (NZTDS) assesses New Zealanders’ exposure to certain chemicals such as agricultural compounds, contaminants and nutrients and is used to identify any potential food safety risks to consumers, as well as monitoring changes to what we eat over time.
“MPI conducts the study every five years, a task which involves sampling and testing over 130 common foods consumed in a typical New Zealand diet.
“Globally, a Total Diet Study is considered a critical tool to identify any food safety risks due to chemicals that might exist. The NZTDS is part of our monitoring and testing programme which ensures we have an accurate, ongoing picture of what is in our food.
“MPI uses the information from the study to inform the development and review of New Zealand food standards as one part of ensuring food safety. If any immediate issues are uncovered, we will respond as appropriate.”
Food samples are purchased over a calendar year from several regions, and prepared as they would be consumed (for example peeled bananas or cooked meat) before being tested. Each food is sampled twice over a calendar year to allow for seasonal variations.
After public consultation, the ministry finalised the list of foods that will be included in the study and what they will be tested for. Sampling for this year has already started.
The study will take place throughout this year and results of each sampling quarter will be made public when available.
A final comprehensive report which includes the dietary exposure estimates to certain chemicals for specified population groups will be published once all the data has been gathered.