Japan and Australia continue to investigate chemical-contaminated barley

Azoxystrobin is a common agricultural fungicide that protects plants and produce from fungal diseases. It’s used especially for grain farming. While the chemical has its uses for protecting food safety and quality, residues at certain levels can be unsafe for human consumption.

Unfortunately, unsafe levels have now been found to have reached consumers after a shipment of Australian barley with a high level of azoxystrobin reached Japan. The batch of barley was found to have 2.5 parts per million (ppm) of the chemical, which is five times higher than Japan’s Food Sanitation Act limit of 0.5 ppm.

Nearly half of the shipment has already reached food processors in the country, and much of the foods that had been made with the barley has likely already been eaten. Japan’s government has since banned part of the shipment, and along with Australian officials, has said it plans to investigate how the barley ended up with such a high amount of the fungicide. Japan is a major importer of Australian barley.

Although the high levels of azoxystrobin are not good, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) has confirmed that ultimately there is no risk to public health. The exposure was not prolonged, and the ministry said that even daily consumption of the contaminated barley would likely not have cause major health concerns.

That said, some Japanese food manufacturers are erring on the side of caution. Supermarkets are reporting recalls of cereal and yogurt products.

According to MAFF, the contamination may have occurred when the barley was being cleaned, but isn’t sure yet. MAFF said it will work with the original shippers of the barley, who have offered apologies to consumers and business partners, to investigate the situation and prevent it from reoccurring.

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