The drugs and additives in New Zealand food products

Salmon is big business in New Zealand - but a popular TV show across the Tasman shocked viewers when it revealed what really gives it an orange colour.

Author : Rachel Clayton

Photo by Tamara West

Photo by Tamara West

The popular Australian show Four Corners revealed farmed salmon in the country is coloured orange from a diet of pellets that contain an additive.

And manufacturers are not required to declare to consumers if salmon is farmed or wild, and therefore if it contains additives. 

Here's some unexpected ingredients involved in the production of New Zealand food products.



Just like our friends across the Tasman, salmon farms in New Zealand use pellets containing the additive astaxanthin to colour the fish pink. 

According to, New Zealand has two major salmon farming players: King Salmon and Sanfords. 

Salmon is meant to be a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for human health.

But testing done by found farmed New Zealand salmon overstated the amounts of Omega-3s claimed in the nutritional information. King Salmon rejected claims it was misleading consumers in 2013. 



New Zealand is one of only 27 countries in the world to allow the use of ractopamine in pork. Most countries ban the drug because of harms it can pose to animal and human health. 

Ractopamine is a hormone used to convert fat in an animal to lean muscle. 

A 2013 study found ractopamine affected behaviour, heart rate, and stress hormone production in pigs and made them more susceptible to stress.



Hormones and antibiotics used in chickens is well known around the world.

Managing director of Turks Poultry Ron Turk said earlier this year there were no hormones in New Zealand chicken and there hadn't been for more than 40 years. 

But, antibiotics are mixed into the daily feed or water of around 85 million chickens raised in factory farms in New Zealand every year. This creates antibiotic resistant bacteria and superbugs that can spread to humans.


Chinese food, packet soups, processed meats

We've all heard of MSG - the flavour enhancer that makes you over consume Chinese takeaway meals. 

Well, it's still out there. 

MSG was first added to Western food in 1948, and is commonly found in Chinese food, packet soups, canned vegetables, and processed meats. Ever since its introduction, there have been reports of reactions, known as the "Chinese restaurant syndrome".

The symptoms may include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain, or swelling of the lips or throat.

Although there is little convincing scientific evidence to link MSG with this type of reaction, many people have an intolerance to MSG that can result in these symptoms. 


Lemon juice 

Sodium benzoate is a food preservative and protects against yeasts, moulds, and types of bacteria. It's why your lemon juice in the fridge never goes off. 

But, sodium benzonate can react with vitamin C - found in most fruit juices - and form benzene. Benzene has been linked to cancer by the World Health Organisation. 

It used to be found in Diet Coke until a study linking sodium benzoate to Parkinson's disease lead Coca-Cola to phase it out of its product, according to the Daily Mail.


Rice and spices

A recent investigation by Australia's SBS Punjabi Radio found imported Indian rice and spice contained "worrying" levels of chemicals. Including pesticides, arsenic, lead and even the carcinogen DDT.  

The products are available from leading supermarkets in New Zealand. 

It found the popular Indian spice brand MDH contains pesticides above the limit specified by Food Standards Australia New Zealand. It also revealed Kohinoor basmati rice contains the banned insecticide buprofezin.

"This investigation exposes potentially harmful contaminants that may be present in foods that Australians consume on the mistaken assumption that all foods sold in the country comply with strict quality standards," says SBS Punjabi Radio executive producer Manpreet Kaur Singh.

Source : Stuff

Anti Additive Association