11 Mar 2015

Infant milk threat: Latest in series of scares

4:13 pm on 11 March 2015

The 1080 threat is the third food safety or contamination alert that the dairy industry and the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) have had to deal with in as many years.

Dairy shed on Clutha Valley farm.

Dairy shed on Clutha Valley farm. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

At the beginning of 2013, nitrification inhibitors used by some farmers were withdrawn after residues of the active ingredient DCD were found in some Fonterra milk products.

The inhibitors had been used by hundreds of dairy farmers to reduce nitrogen leaching and emissions and boost grass growth.

Fonterra detected the presence of the compound during routine testing of its milk.

The DCD residues posed no human health threat, but despite that, Sri Lanka banned New Zealand milk powder imports for a time.

Then later in 2013, came the botulism false alarm, when Fonterra was forced to recall infant formula and other products containing whey protein concentrate.

Early indications that the whey had been contaminated with botulism from a production line fault proved in later testing to be a false alarm.

But subsequent government and industry inquiries have led to tighter testing and traceability procedures for dairy products.

It's not the first time the Government and the ministry have had to deal with a threat of this sort.

In 2005, the then Ministry of Agriculture launched a major foot and mouth disease alert, after the Prime Minister's office received a letter saying that the highly contagious livestock virus had been released on Waiheke Island.

The letter, which was signed 'M Ferguson', turned out to be a hoax, but the writer was never identified and no-one was charged.

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