Coast firm finds DCD in milk

ANDREA FOX
Last updated 07:36 31/01/2013

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Traces of the agricultural chemical dicyandiamide (DCD) have been found in Westland Milk Products samples, likely to further spook New Zealand's international dairy customers, already unnerved by revelations Fonterra found residues four months ago.

The South Island-based firm last night said it was reassuring its overseas customers that food safety and human health were not at risk. As a priority, it was doing further testing.

Chief executive Rod Quin said Westland had started testing for the chemical, used in fertiliser to reduce nitrate leaching into waterways, after the Primary Industries Ministry said last Thursday the product had been removed from the market by fertiliser firms Ballance and Ravensdown.

The announcement also revealed Fonterra had found DCD traces when testing dairy products for DCD for the first time last September.

The product has been on the market for seven years.

Westland's tests had shown traces of DCD in some milk samples produced before November 1 last year, Quin said.

Evidence indicated product made after this date was clear of DCD.

Westland is one of the nation's biggest independent dairy companies, processing 85,000 tonnes of product a year. Its second-biggest market after New Zealand is China.

Fonterra and the Government are facing down a serious trade risk after last week's announcement as overseas customers, particularly in China, where New Zealand dairy products have shot to 80 per cent of dairy imports after China's food safety scares, scramble for reassurance that Kiwi products are safe.

The Government last week said research showed no food safety risk or human or animal health concerns with DCD use, and even with extremely high doses it had been difficult to identify any adverse effects.

Fairfax NZ inquiries have revealed that other dairy processors, including Westland, had been kept in the dark for four months about Fonterra's September discovery. Some have been fielding calls from alarmed overseas customers.

One exporter, which did not want to be named, said it was unhappy to learn only last Thursday, at the same time as the public, that Fonterra had found DCD residues in September.

Most sizeable independents, including Westland, belong to the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ), part of a DCD "working group" formed by the Ministry of Primary Industries in December after Fonterra told the ministry in November of its September discovery.

DCANZ chief executive Simon Tucker said association members were told of the DCD issue in a teleconference "about a week" before the public announcement.

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DCANZ chairman Malcolm Bailey, a Fonterra director, could not be contacted.

Dave Stanley, the chief executive of Waikato's Dairy Goat Co- operative, a major dairy goat product exporter, said his organisation also did not learn of the DCD discovery until last Thursday. The co-operative had taken calls from overseas customers asking for clarification around food safety issues.

Stanley understood the ministry had not contacted his company because it knew that no goat milk suppliers had used the chemical on farmland. But he said the company would have liked to have known about the issue. Fairfax NZ

- © Fairfax NZ News

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