Product recall to protect dairy exports

TIM CRONSHAW
Last updated 15:00 24/01/2013
Eco-N
Stacy Squires

ECO-N: A spray tank applying the nitrofication inhibitor developed by Lincoln Universty and Ravensdown

Greg Campbell
Supplied
RAVENSDOWN: Greg Campbell was named chief executive in 2012.

Relevant offers

National business

Prime Minister John Key warns property speculators will get caught Small Auckland cafe rivals competition with free coffee Company under SFO probe goes into receivership Waihi faces 50 job losses as Newmont cuts back gold mining Crusaders give salad delivery business a boost Ian Taylor resigns Air NZ's Elite Priority One membership to defend club Arvida FY result in line with guidance Cruise visitors spark growth for tour operators MYOB splashes out $14m for Lower Hutt payroll firm Eroad 'on track' as transport tech opportunities open up in US

The recall of nitrate-reducing products from shelves today, to protect New Zealand's dairy export trade, is a blow to both the dairy industry and efforts to reduce nitrates leaching into water and greenhouse gas emissions.

The active ingredient of the brands eco-n and DcN - nitrification inhibitors sprayed on grazed pastures to control nitrogen losses from cow urine patches - has been added to an international list of substances that must be tested by organisations such as the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Milk powder tests in New Zealand have since revealed that low levels of the biodegradable ingredient dicyandiamide, more commonly known as DCD, coincided with the times of the year that the products were applied.

Tougher testing could put milk exports at risk as there are no standards for maximum levels of the ingredient and zero residues cannot be guaranteed.

Eco-n's owner, Christchurch-based fertiliser co-operative Ravensdown, said DCD has been safely used around the world for 30 years, but it had taken the precaution of suspending its product for the rest of the year to retain New Zealand's dairy export reputation.

Chief executive Greg Campbell said research by the company and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) showed there were no food safety issues with DCD or eco-n.

"What's changed is that last year, organisations like the US Food and Drug Administration added DCD to a list of substances to test for. This, combined with increasingly sophisticated scanning technology now presents a possible trade risk.

"Given the risk to NZ's dairy export reputation, Ravensdown has taken the initiative and is suspending the single product which uses DCD for this calendar year."

He said there had never been a set of international standards around maximum residue levels in food products because DCD had been used safely for a long time.

"Because no standard exists for DCD, no detectable presence is acceptable. And because zero detection of DCD cannot be guaranteed, Ravensdown has taken the responsible, voluntary step to suspend its use while the trade issues are resolved."

To assess DCD on farmland, the MPI last December set up a working party of ministry officials, Fonterra and other dairy companies and the fertiliser companies of Ravensdown and Ballance which sells DcN.

Food regulators around the world are tightening testing in line with more demanding markets and in some countries there is no tolerance to residues outside of standards.

Milk markets remain sensitive from the incident several years ago when Chinese infants died and thousands were left sick after drinking melamine-contaminated milk produced by Chinese factories.

DCD is a compound widely used in some industries including electronics, pharmaceuticals and food packaging.

Farmers have used the ingredient since 2004 in products, first developed by Lincoln University scientists, to reduce their environmental footprint by slowing the rate that soil bacteria can convert ammonia into nitrate and greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.

Ad Feedback

Farmers will have to rely on other techniques such as testing, nutrient planning and precise fertiliser application to keep nitrates down.

Campbell said reducing nitrate leaching would continue to be vital for sustainable farming. The effectiveness of nitrification inhibitors was well proven, and had helped farmers to face stricter environmental requirements.

He said the company would look to the ministry to seek new international standards for DCD, which could be a lengthy process. Ravensdown's's eco-n product makes up about 1 per cent of its annual sales.

Other countries use DCD in cropping by applying it to nitrogen fertilisers.

- The Press

Comments

Special offers

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content