Imports make up toxic takeaways

Imports make up toxic takeaways

CHOLERA-DUSTED prawns, peanuts with a side of pesticide, salmonella-infused chilli powder as well as E. coli and listeria-flavoured cheeses have been halted on the way to supermarket shelves this year.

The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service had rejected almost 350 shipments of food up to October 30 because they failed to meet chemical and bacterial standards.

Where the contaminated foods originated from.

Where the contaminated foods originated from.

These included four shipments of cooked prawns from China and Thailand that were blocked because of the presence of cholera bacteria. Chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to neurological defects and developmental and autoimmune disorders, was found in peanuts from China on six occasions.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority began a review of chlorpyrifos because of concerns over its toxicity and potential risks but a final report has not been handed down.


Use of the pesticide in homes in the United States has been banned since 2001.

Ethylene chlorohydrin - detected in chilli powder, cinnamon sticks and garam masala powder from India in August - can cause nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, headaches, low blood pressure, collapse, shock and coma.

Public health and infection expert at the Australian National University Martyn Kirk said the impacts on Australians would depend on the amount of the bacteria or chemical consumed.

''You need quite a high dose of cholera to get infected,'' Dr Kirk said. ''Most people get cholera when sanitation is poor. You need about 1000 organisms to establish an infection.''

Produce from India was rejected 49 times in the first 10 months of the year, while China and Italy both had 32 products banned.

French cheeses were not up to standard on 43 occasions. The French dairy products were found to have listeria, salmonella and unacceptable levels of E. coli.

Dr Kirk said food with E. coli bacteria indicated that it had not been processed in a sanitary way.

''E. coli is usually from the guts of mammals and indicates that there has been contamination with human or animal effluent or faecal matter of sorts,'' he said.

University of Canberra professor of pharmacy Gabrielle Cooper said the presence of listeria bacteria in more than 30 products - including oysters from China, smoked salmon from Ireland and ham from Italy - should serve as a reminder to pregnant women to stay away from seafood, soft cheeses and deli meat.

''Listeria is very bad news for pregnant women. Often they will have a premature delivery or spontaneous abortion with an infection in pregnancy,'' Dr Cooper said.

''The recommendation for pregnant women is to stay away from soft cheese and deli meats.''

Listeria infections can also cause blood poisoning and meningitis.

About a third of patients, whose listeria infection spreads to the central nervous system, die.

Quarantine tests 100 per cent of the first five shipments from a producer, 25 per cent for the next 20 shipments and 5 per cent from then on if there have been no positive results.

Most Viewed in National