Book Reviews

Food Safety of Australian Plant Bushfoods

by M. P. Hegarty, E. E. Hegarty and R. B. H. Wills. 

Published by RIRDC, PO Box 4776, Kingston, ACT

Available for free download at http://www., or in book form for $20 + postage.

At a bushfood industry conference in Brisbane in 1996, a number of plant species were selected as having the best commercial potential. It was suggested that information on the safety of these bushfoods should be collated and made more readily available. This report includes information on the inherent qualities of those species and more recent industry preferences. It includes:

  • a survey of relevant scientific and industry literature on individual species
  • records of aboriginal uses for food (but not for unrelated purposes, e.g. medicinals for internal or external use).
  • results of previously published, and new, analyses for some selected components which may be considered undesirable in foods, depending on the quantity and frequency of consumption and individual tolerance
  • nutritional values of selected bushfoods
  • a list of some native plants to be avoided as food, and
  • an extensive list of references cited in the report.

The report does not extend to safety issues which may possibly develop during or after processing, e.g. problems of storage or contamination. Several studies of bushfood production, properties and marketing are listed in the New Plant Products program on the RIRDC website. Members of the industry provided samples for testing, and many useful personal observations on bushfoods.

In general, commercial bushfoods are consumed in rather small quantities, more often for their particular flavour or aroma than nutritional value. While they may sometimes contain some potentially undesirable compounds, these are usually present in similarly small quantities to those in non-native foods which have been widely used with safety for many years for comparable culinary purposes.

Nevertheless caution must be exercised with regard to correct identification of plants to be used as bushfoods, and in limiting the quantities of unfamiliar foods being consumed.

Modern methods of selection and analysis of material intended for propagation for bushfood are standardising the chemical and other qualities of the resulting products, but individual tolerances of particular species or selections may still differ.

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