NZ govt agency says test show milk free of DCD residues

WELLINGTON Wed Feb 20, 2013 8:12pm EST

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WELLINGTON Feb 21 (Reuters) - New Zealand's Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) said on Thursday that tests had shown no traces of a potentially toxic chemical in local milk since mid-November.

Food safety authorities had been testing New Zealand milk products after dairy exporter Fonterra last month said traces of dicyandiamide (DCD), a chemical used in fertilisers which is potentially toxic in large amounts, had been found in milk samples taken in September.

Reports of the DCD detection raised concerns about the safety of New Zealand dairy products, whose exports are worth around NZ$11.5 billion annually, and prompted Taiwan, China and Malaysia to examine their dairy imports.

At the time, Fonterra Chief Executive officer Theo Spierings had said the "minute traces" of the chemical, which prevents fertilisers from soaking into rivers, which were found in its milk was not a threat to human health.

The world's biggest dairy exporter subsequently came under fire for failing to announce its findings earlier. Fonterra was linked through a Chinese subsidiary to the 2008 melamine-tainted milk scandal in which at least six children died.

The fertiliser companies making the product containing the chemical have since removed the product from sale.

Dairy products account for nearly a third of New Zealand's exports, with more than 90 percent of country's milk products sent overseas, mainly for use by other firms as an ingredient in everything from infant formula to cheese on frozen pizzas.

The MPI has said that DCD, used in fertilisers around the world, poses not food safety threat, but in the absence of international standards, some countries consider any residue of the chemical to be unacceptable.

(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu)

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