Milk concerns extends to independent dairy processors
The four-month silence by the government and Fonterra after the discovery of DCD chemical residue in dairy products appears to have been extended to some of the country's independent dairy processors who are now 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 found out about the DCD (dicyandiamide) residue in September, and that the agriculture chemical had subsequently been withdrawn from the market.
Other independents contacted said they had been told to refer calls about DCD to the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ), of which they are members.
DCANZ was part of a DCD ‘‘working group’’ formed by the Ministry for Primary Industries in December after Fonterra informed it in November of its September discovery.
DCANZ chief executive Simon Tucker was not available for comment until this afternoon.
Chairman Malcolm Bailey, a Fonterra director, could not be contacted.
Major dairy goat product exporter the Dairy Goat Cooperative also did not learn of the DCD discovery until Thursday, said chief executive Dave Stanley.
The Waikato-based cooperative had received approaches from overseas customers asking for clarification around food safety issues, he said.
Stanley understood MPI had not contacted his company because the ministry knew that no goat milk suppliers had used the chemical on farmland.
But he said the company would have liked to know about the issue.
DCANZ members include Fonterra Brands, Waikato’s Tatua Cooperative Dairy Company, Open Country Dairy, Westland Milk Products, Miraka and Synlait.
Fertiliser companies Ravensdown and Ballance, also part of the working group, said on Thursday they had suspended sales of DCD or dicyandiamide for farmland treatment.
The chemical has been applied by some farmers for seven years to help reduce nitrate leaching into waterways and greenhouse gases.
Fonterra’s tests in September were the first ever conducted for DCD on dairy products.
The residues were in at very low levels and DCD is not considered to have any impact on food safety, MPI said.
About 500 dairy farmers were thought to have used DCD on pastures.
Tatua chairman and DCANZ representative Steve Allen said his company did not learn of the DCD investigation until the public, last Thursday.
But he said Tatua did not have an issue with this, and was content to leave the matter in the hands of MPI and DCANZ.
A manufacturer of specialised caseinates and anhydrous milk fat products, Tatua did not make milk powders, which Allen said seemed to be where DCD residues were found.
He said ''90 per cent of things in the industry would not be heard about'' because they were Fonterra's business.
Fonterra, the country's biggest company and world's leading dairy exporter, controls just under 90 per cent of the New Zealand industry.
Allen said DCD had been used by ''maybe one'' Tatua farmer supplier, perhaps once a year.
Asked why MPI had not informed other New Zealand dairy industry exporters of the DCD issue earlier, the ministry said when the decision was made by fertiliser companies Ravensdown and Ballance to voluntarily suspend sales of DCD treatments in January, the working group started a process of informing affected stakeholders, including dairy companies.
Deputy director general Carol Barnao in a written response said it was important to do a full assessment of the situation and make a measured response, which was why the DCD working group was set up by MPI early in December 2012.