The short story: chemical residue tests showed that despite our initial concern, our raspberries returned the same results as raspberries purchased from a supermarket.
As explained in this post, I cancelled heaps of raspberry orders after getting soil test results showing DDT contamination.
It took me a few days to get my head around what the results actually meant, and the relevant standards and guidelines. Having done so, I was confident that the levels were well within the safe limits, but I arranged some testing of the actual fruit (the bit we’re eating) rather than the soil, just to be sure.
Test version 2…
This time around I tested specifically for all the bad stuff that I thought may be in the soil based on the land’s prior history. This included heavy metals, old pesticides (like DDT) and newer pesticides.
I also went further with my sampling: I took one sample made up of fruit picked at regular intervals from the entire patch, another made up of fruit picked as close as possible to the soil that had returned the DDT results, and two more samples which were store-bought fruit, just as a comparison.
Analytical Services Tasmania opened for business in the New Year on Jan 4th, at which time I started corresponding again to establish a test suite, and I submitted these samples on Jan 6th.
The results came back yesterday arvo, Jan 19th.
The raspberries had so little DDT in them that they were below the limit of reporting (that is, so little that they don’t even bother putting a number on it).
The only contaminant that I tested for, that returned results high enough to put a number on, was arsenic (this was used in lead arsenate as an insecticide in apple orchards). It was also at low levels: just on the threshold of being too small to be reportable.
This is an interesting one, since FSANZ has not established a Maximum Residue Limit for arsenic in fruit (which in itself seems quite bizarre, since the stuff got there because it was used on fruit; there’s an MRL for arsenic in cereals, fish, seaweed… but not fruit). On my understanding of the Code, that means that a zero-tolerance for arsenic in fruit applies. I contacted FSANZ to clarify this and they confirmed (in lightning quick time) that the simple answer was that yes, fruit that has arsenic in it at reportable levels falls foul of the Code, but for advice as to how that should be interpreted/enforced, I’d need to talk to DHHS.
So I contacted DHHS, who advised that the arsenic is “not at a level which is concerning”. Which seems like a fair call, given that the MRL for arsenic in fish is twenty times higher than it is in my raspberries.
The raspberries that I bought from a store and had tested, returned exactly the same level of arsenic.
So once again it all seems rather arbitrary. As a further example, the other store-bought fruit I had tested returned a pesticide that I’d never heard of, and which, had it been found at that level on my raspberries, would definitely have been deemed unsafe. But it wasn’t on raspberries, it was on a different berry fruit, and the maximum residue allowed for that pesticide in that particular berry fruit, is 8 times higher than it is in raspberries. Why? I don’t know, but I would speculate that it’s because that particular berry fruit industry has made an argument for why the pesticide is necessary on their crop… But perhaps it’s something to do with how the arsenic is metabolised with the intake of different fruits. But I know which my money would be on.
Speaking of which, this exercise has cost me over $1000 in testing, and probably double that in lost business. So if you feel like some raspberries or blackcurrants (pick your own!), do consider buying from your local crazily quixotic farmer.