Tighter dairy industry rules being looked at

04:41, Aug 20 2013

New Zealand's dairy manufacturing sector is set for a regulatory and testing shake-up after a string of food safety scares and alerts.

As predicted by processing industry players, the Ministry for Primary Industries has announced it is considering interim steps to tighten the rules around manufacturing. The measures will be in place while a ministry inquiry designed to produce long-term recommendations for the country's dairy food safety system is under way.

Among the interim measures being considered are increasing the regulatory presence in manufacturing plants; lifting the level and nature of testing to improve troubleshooting methods; running tracing simulations to test the capability of the industry to rapidly trace and track product through supply chains.

The ministry is also considering increasing review of dairy producers' risk-management plans.

Meantime, the ministry said it was also increasing its routine analysis of regulatory non-compliance across the dairy sector.

"We will be looking for trends that will help us identify whether there are any further interim measures that may be required," the ministry's acting director-general Scott Gallacher said.

The interim measures follow the discovery last year of DCD nitrate inhibitor residues in Fonterra dairy products last year and announcing them in January, Fonterra's recent botulism contamination risk scare and this week's announcement by Westland Milk Products that elevated levels of a nitrate from cleaning fluid had been discovered in lactoferrin ingredient by a Chinese customer.

A ministerial-led inquiry is also under way into Fonterra's botulism scare. The dairy company itself has two investigations going.