Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Check before picking in Cobram

Cobram orchardists are warning residents to check with farmers before taking fruit from trees, as they can contain harmful pesticides.

TONI BRIENT January 22, 2014 4:20am

Take care: Cobram peach farmers Tony and Sam Alessi are warning residents to check with farmers before taking fruit from trees, as they can contain harmful pesticides.

Cobram farmer Tony Alessi is warning people not to take fruit from orchard trees because they could be contaminated with pesticides.

Mr Alessi said farmers used a variety of chemicals to keep insect and fungal pests off the fruit.

The chemicals commonly remained in the fruit for one to four days, Mr Alessi said.

He said it was unsafe to consume the fruit during that ‘‘withholding time’’.

The peach grower is urging people not to pick fruit from orchards, because there is no way to know whether it is still under the withholding period.

‘‘If someone came to me and said, ‘Can I have a bag of fruit?’ I’d say, ‘By all means, take it’,’’ Mr Alessi said.

‘‘But they’ve got to ask and be aware of what’s happening in the area because I’m not the only one — there’s all of us (fruit growers) that spray.’’

He said growers worked with strict chemical guidelines.

‘‘We can’t pick them for the (SPC Ardmona) cannery because it comes up as a chemical residue,’’ he said.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand spokesperson Lorraine Belanger said the regulations for selling fruit free of pesticides and fungicides were strict for health reasons.

‘‘We rarely have an issue with food sold at a retail level,’’ Mrs Belanger said.

‘‘But (Mr Alessi) is quite right in that if he sprayed and people aren’t aware of that, and let’s say they pick it the next day or the same day, obviously that can be a concern.

‘‘It is something people need to be aware of.’’

Mr Alessi said while he discouraged people picking fruit without asking, his main concern was people’s health and safety.

‘‘If they’re chemical-free, go ahead,’’ he said.

‘‘If they’re not chemical free, we’ll say come back in two, three or four days.

‘‘It’s as simple as that.’’

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