15 Apr 2013

Growers hope contaminant won't affect certification

6:45 am on 15 April 2013

Organic kiwifruit growers who unwittingly used a spray which contained a non-organic contaminant are hoping their organic certification won't be affected.

Zespri, discovered traces of a chloride residue, didecyl dimthyl ammonium chloride (DDAC) two weeks ago, on kiwifruit about to be harvested.

The DDAC was found to have come from a spray, Citrox BioAlexin, which was used by both organic and conventional growers to try and keep their vines healthy in the fight against the bacteria PSA.

Six containers of the spray were recently imported and two of those were contaminated with DDAC.

Certified Organic Kiwifruit Growers Association chairman Doug Voss said growers don't know yet what the implications are for their organic-certification.

He said that if after two positive tests the residual continues to be found the fruit cannot be exported organically for this current season.

Mr Voss said organic growers have not yet been informed what impact that will have on the ongoing certification as organic growers.

He said until Zespri's testing programme is complete the industry won't know the full scale of the problem.

BioGro chief executive Michelle Glogau said the agency will look into the organic status of growers' land, as well as looking at the long term impact on the growers.

Ms Glogau said growers did not use a non-organic spray intentionally and it should not impact their certification if there is not an ongoing residue problem on their orchards.

DDAC is commonly used as an industrial disinfectant or cleaner and it has been linked to skin, eye and respiratory irritation.

Traces of the chemical on fruit and vegetables in Europe led to the European Commission introducing a maximum tolerance level of five parts per million in 2012.

Zespri says the highest levels detected on fruit so far is 0.7 parts per million.

New Zealand's most valuable market for kiwifruit, Japan - has zero tolerance.