Summary of Awards to Date

Pilot study of cadmium and other metals in Ontario-grown crops.

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Date

Apr. 1, 2006 - Mar. 30, 2007

Funding Agency

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' (OMAFRA) Food Safety Science Unit (FSSU)

Amount Awarded

$97,000.00

Investigator

Gavin Downing, Ph.D.
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' (OMAFRA) Food Safety Science Unit (FSSU)

Summary

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' (OMAFRA) Food Safety Science Unit (FSSU) is located within the Food Inspection Branch. The FSSU is comprised of scientists, statisticians and technical experts. The FSSU provides scientific support to the ministry's food safety programs and policies. The work of the unit includes advising food safety and inspection programs, risk assessment, and scientific studies of food hazards. An example of the work that the FSSU does in supplementing our current knowledge of food hazards is the pilot study of metals in Ontario-grown crops. Cadmium is a non-essential metal that in excess may pose a public health hazard. Renal tubular dysfunction is usually regarded as cadmium's critical health effect, but exposure to cadmium may also be associated with diabetes, hypertension and neuro-toxicity. As part of its continuous evaluation of Ontario's food safety and inspection system, OMAFRA is conducting a series of projects to identify correlations, if any, between soil characteristics and Ontario-grown varieties of field crops and produce that may influence the uptake of cadmium into the edible portion of the crop. This two-year project will provide specific cadmium residue information on Ontario-grown produce. Soils will be tested for: the presence of cadmium and zinc, as part of a broader metal scan; pH; the presence of organic matter; the presence of chloride ion; and, the presence of phosphorus. A first step in reducing and controlling cadmium residue levels in specific high risk commodities (e.g. potatoes, root vegetables, and field crops) is identifying the frequency and magnitude of cadmium residues in specific Ontario-grown produce and crops. OMAFRA's 2006/07 cadmium pilot study confirmed that cadmium residue levels in Ontario-produced grains and vegetables (wheat, corn, potatoes, carrots, and cabbage) are comparable to nationally and internationally reported cadmium levels. Wheat and potatoes are among the main food contributors to our total cadmium diet intake and the second year study focuses on these two foods of plant origin. This follow-up study will establish a correlation between cadmium levels in the edible crop and soil cadmium levels on the farm and/or agricultural practices that may reduce cadmium bioavailability in soil (e.g. soil pH, organic matter, zinc content, chloride content). Findings of this study will help the ministry to identify soil characteristics that may influence the uptake of cadmium into the edible portion of Ontario-grown varieties of wheat and potatoes This study may provide data to recommend possible field-level actions to reduce cadmium exposure of the Ontario population, including changes in agricultural practices or research needs to minimize cadmium uptake into crops.