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Risk from produce in Waikouaiti, Karitane and Hawksbury ‘minimal’ - MPI

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Southern DHB Medical Officer of Health Dr Susan Jack says the community can be reassured by advice received by the Ministry of Primary Industries that any risk to human health from eating produce from the Waikouaiti, Karitane and Hawksbury area is minimal.

“We heard the concerns from the community about the potential for contaminated water to have affected the safety of the food they had grown or produced, and wanted to get expert advice in this area. We had recommended people wait until the results of the blood testing were known, however we are now following the expert MPI advice, which is that people can continue to eat produce from this area, but that they wash home-grown vegetables or fruit in alternative sources of water.”

Questions and answers received from the Ministry of Primary Industries is as follows:

Can I water vegetable garden, fruit trees, lawns and other plants?

Based on recent water results, it should be fine to use tap water to water any part of your garden. The levels of lead reported in the water tests for Waikouaiti and Karitane have not exceeded the maximum levels for crop irrigation and it is unlikely that water alone would constitute a risk of contaminating home grown fruit and vegetables. We advise washing any home-grown vegetables and fruits with alternative sources of water in the short-term if you have concerns.

Is it safe to eat local animal products and/or animals drinking water from the local water supply?

Based on the current information received from Council, the Ministry for Primary Industries advises there is minimal risk to food safety at this stage. There would need to be longer-term exposure at high lead levels in the water to make animal products such as dairy or eggs unsafe. Lead does not typically build up in muscle tissue (meat such as beef, pork, lamb or poultry) at the levels reported in the water if you have any concerns.

Is it safe to eat food and vegetables grown locally and watered with the local water supply?

From the current information received from the Council, MPI advises there are minimal risks to commercially grown crops in the affected areas. The lead contamination would have to be sustained and chronically over the Maximum Acceptable Value in order to affect commercial growers. The risk to animal welfare is low given that most commercial farmers use their own water supply.