On several occasions in 1987 Australian meat was reported by overseas countries to contain unacceptable levels of pesticide residues. Investigations revealed that the residues were mainly the organochlorine compounds DDT, dieldrin and heptachlor, the concentrations of which exceeded the maximum residue limits. The organochlorines had accumulated in the soil of farms where they were used annually, or more frequently, owing to their long half-life in soils, and grazing animals had accumulated the pesticides in their adipose tissues. Removing the animals to non-contaminated pastures did not reduce the residue levels for some time because their half-lives in the adipose tissues ranged from two to three months. When the problem was recognised action was taken by the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industries and Energy and the relevant Departments of the States and the Northern Territory to identify the affected properties and animals. The affected farms were quarantined and the animals detained until the residue levels were depleted adequately. The use of DDT was banned and dieldrin and heptachlor were permitted to be used only for the control of termites in buildings. Following this action the proportion of samples of beef with residue levels above the permitted limits decreased from 0.42 per cent in 1986/87 to 0.22 per cent in 1987/88.
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