Last Updated: November 26, 2015

Weather: Canberra 18°C - 22°C . Partly cloudy. Windy.

Top News

Chinese canned imports scandal


Concern: Imported canned peaches are at the centre of another health scandal.  Picture: Jason Busch

IMPORTED Chinese canned peaches are at the centre of another health scandal, amid growing calls for the Federal Government to save Australia's last fruit processor.

 Victorian and Commonwealth health authorities are investigating reports of high levels of lead found in imported preserved peaches during two tests last year.

The revelations have sparked renewed calls for stronger country-of-origin labelling, increased testing and for governments to buy Australian-grown and manufactured food for aged-care facilities, hospitals and the defence forces.

The health scare comes as Federal Cabinet will tomorrow reconsider a $25 million assistance package for SPC Ardmona to upgrade its Goulburn Valley processing plant.

Tests on canned peaches, believed to be funded by a group of Australian food companies, were twice conducted at the National Measurement Institute between last July and October.

One test found Chinese imported peaches contained 0.2mg per kilogram of lead, which is twice the Australian and New Zealand food standard of at or below 0.1mg/kg.

In a second test, one sample of peaches contained 0.11mg/kg. In the same tests, Australian tinned peaches contained 0.018 mg/kg.

Another six types of imported peaches tested were also below the limit for lead content.

High levels of lead ingested by humans can cause immediate and long-term health problems, including brain damage, damage to the digestion, reproduction and nervous system.

Pregnant women and children are especially vulnerable.

Victorian Health Minister David Davis has asked the Chief Health Officer Rosemary Lester for "urgent scientific and technical advice'' on the issues.

Victoria's health department and the Commonwealth agriculture department confirmed they are investigating test results.

Liberal MP Sharman Stone, a vocal supporter of SPCA's case for taxpayer-funded aid, said the test results had reinforced "the high-risk foreign food imports could contain".

She is also lobbying federal and state governments to support Australian food processors in contracts with public hospitals, nursing homes and defence forces.

SPC Ardmona has been critical of testing standards Australian growers and food processors are forced to meet compared with imports.

It has highlighted the increased number of cheap foreign imports in the local market and of inferior quality as a major influence on its plight.

Supermarkets Coles, Woolworths and Aldi have recently moved to source Australian-grown and canned produced in their own-brand produce.

Imported food identified to be a "risk" is initially inspected by the Agriculture Department and tested at a rate of 100 per cent against a published list of potential hazard, including micro-organisms and contaminants.

Once five consecutive consignments have passed inspection, the inspection rate is reduced to 25 per cent; after a further 20 consecutive passes, the rate is reduced to 5 per cent.

Vegetable grower lobby group Ausveg has also argued Australian fresh vegetable growers were held to higher standards than imports and have called for imports testing quotas to be lifted to 25 per cent.

Queensland MP Bob Katter said yesterday Australian standards were at one level and world's standards at another.

"Surely a consumer is entitled to know that that item coming into Australia is an import and has that risk attached to it,'' Mr Katter said.

Aid for SPC has divided Coalition MPs and Federal Cabinet and could become a decision for Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Have your say

Skip to:
Read comments
Add comments

Add your comment on this story

Comments Form

1200 characters left

Your details
Post Options

Our Privacy Policy includes important information about our collection, use and disclosure of your personal information (including to provide you with targeted advertising based on your online activities). It explains that if you do not provide us with information we have requested from you, we may not be able to provide you with the goods and services you require. It also explains how you can access or seek correction of your personal information, how you can complain about a breach of the Australian Privacy Principles and how we will deal with a complaint of that nature.

Comments on this story

  • Graeme Pyle of Berrigan NSW Posted at 1:38 PM February 27, 2015

    The importation of cheap canned food has been championed by successive Governments to keep the CPI low. This is the barometer that governments use to convince the voters that they are better off under them by reducing the CPI. The duopoly supermarkets use the imported food to bash a lower price out of the farmers. At some stage the imported products coming in will kill people. The Australian farmers are most capable of feeding this nation properly..... just test the imported product at least as much as the Australian farmers produce is tested! There is a chain of command in food production.... At the top is the Federal minister responsible for importation on that day. That minister should be liable for any damage caused by the substandard food.... the farmers are.

  • Sasha of Melbourne Posted at 11:31 PM February 03, 2014

    Don't know where you get your facts from, Woolworths have recently changed their pears in syrup from Australian to Malaysian imports.

  • Andrew Thaler of Nimmitabel Posted at 12:35 PM February 03, 2014

    The bigger problem is the large bulk containers of fruit imported and packaged locally thereby qualifying for the loosely regulated "Made in Australia" label. For example, Olives come in 1 tonne tanks, called IBC's and are then used in Australian food products.. bearing the designation 'from local and imported ingredients'. Which ingredients? From where? Can they be easily traced back to origin??


Weekly Times story tips

It must be snoozeday

DOGS: Red Heeler Puppies. DOGS CALENDAR 2016

KEEP track of all the days with The Weekly Times 2016 Dogs Calendar.

New drought declarations in Qld

Drought relief

MORE than 86 per cent of Queensland is officially now in drought after seven more councils were added to the list of affected areas.

Fires devastate SA farms

Mallala fire

RESIDENTS and farmers in South Australia’s mid north remain in the dark as to the cause of the fire that has killed two people.

Supermarket shake-up

Supermarket shake-up

VICTORIA’S second biggest independent supermarket group has sold out to Australia’s biggest independent supermarket group.

Farmer recounts close call with blaze

SA Fires

TWO people have been confirmed dead, 16 homes have been lost and 87,500 hectares of land burnt in the Pinery fire, South Australia.

Weekly Times story tips

Fires devastate SA farms

Mallala fire

RESIDENTS and farmers in South Australia’s mid north remain in the dark as to the cause of the fire that has killed two people.

Country boys find AFL homes

Darcy Parish Footballer.

THIS year’s Vic Country Under-18 representatives dominated the early proceedings of the AFL draft.

New ADF president elected

New ADF president elected

NSW dairy farmer Simone Jolliffe is the new Australian Dairy Farmers president.

eHat takes guess work out

eHat takes guess work out

ARE you stuck in the sticks with a technical problem that has you stumped?

Devoted to making lives better

Jeff Robinson

HE flies planes, fights fires with the CFA, cross-country skis, runs a beef and olive farm and volunteers in remote Aboriginal communities.

Wet may not follow dry

Wet may not follow dry

THERE is no guarantee ­Victorian farmers will get a wet 2016, even if the El Nino finishes next year as predicted.