Fruit importers and marketers delay decision on diphenylamine which can change DNA and cause birth defects

5 Mar

UK Agriculture reported last month (Inputs/Supply businesses section) that the EU standing committee on the food chain and animal health has postponed its vote on the derogation of active post-harvest substance diphenylamine (DPA).

DPA chemicalDiphenylamine is found on and inside apples which have travelled long distances, commonly used to keep their skin looking healthy in the supermarket.  However, the material safety data sheet for diphenylamine indicates that it can change DNA and cause birth defects.  It’s also considered harmful if swallowed.  The build up of diphenylamine in the system could cause issues later on in life.  Diphenylamine has also been found inside apples.

An English authority on apples, consulted about diphenylamine, comments:

apple scald exterior2“This material is an antioxidant which apparently prevents “scald”, a physiological condition causing cell breakdown and skin discolouration in storage of certain apple varieties.

apple scald interior2“I have no experience of it and suspect it may not be much used in the UK. Where used, it would only be on scald-susceptible varieties destined for a long storage period. Any hazard associated with its use would be greatest to packhouse workers rather than consumers”.

The recent fruit packhouse deaths on the Blackmoor Estate, though due to a different cause, will have led to a closer focus on all packhouse safety considerations.

In December the World Apple and Pear Association wrote to members:

“The WAPA secretariat and several members have warned the Commission services and Member States that such levels may entail difficulties given historical contamination of packing stations and bins which may lead to residue levels above 0,05 ppm even when not using DPA.

Following last minute pressure from several third countries along with additional data demonstrating the scope of cross-contamination, the EU Commission decided to postpone the decision to the next meeting (25-26 February 2013) allowing further internal consultation and with the concerned third countries.

Update 1st March 2013

pipfruitFruitnet reports that the European Commission has announced it will delay its decision on lowering the maximum residue level (MRL) of diphenylamine (DPA). A final decision is now not expected until late March to early April.

New Zealand is listening: Mike Butcher of top fruit body Pipfruit NZ, has confirmed that none of the country’s producers have used DPA this season and that fruit production, and exports, will not be impacted if the MRL is lowered.

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