TFI, USDA Issue Tainted Fertilizer Warning

Fertilizer industry officials let their their members know about an increased chance that imported Chinese zinc fertilizers could contain high levels of cadmium. The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) sent a memo during Thanksgiving week as a “heads up” to its membership to be more aware of their product quality.

“We’re not aware of any instances of this happening in the U.S. in the last few years,” said Bill Herz, TFI’s vice president of scientific programs. He told CropLife eNews that “this is just a heads up to our membership that the problem has occurred in other countries, and make sure they know what’s going on.”

TFI sent a memo informing fertilizer manufacturers, importers, and distributors that a USDA researcher warned that zinc fertilizers containing high amounts of cadmium have been appearing in other countries. USDA’s warning said the levels recorded in other countries suggest that hazardous heavy metals may have been purposefully dumped into fertilizers as a way to dispose of them.

"The point of our communication to members is to protect not only the industry but the folks who buy our products," said Bill Herz, TFI’s vice president of scientific programs, in an interview with DTN’s Greg Horstmeier. "We always recommend that (members) look at state and federal regulations and do some spot testing (of their own) for heavy metals."

TFI officials declined to speculate on the nature of the contamination, according to a DTN report. "We purposefully put the memo together to not point fingers at imported product, and to be sensitive to the many different sectors of the industry," said Kathy Mathers, TFI spokesperson. "The response (from membership) has been pretty quiet; we see that as a good sign."

TFI is considering additional educational programs for membership, and the subject of contamination will likely be discussed at the February meeting of the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials, which represents U.S. fertilizer regulators.

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