Ministry of Primary Industry Director-General Wayne McNee says there’s confusion about the suspension of a pasture treatment, DCD, in New Zealand and what this means for the safety of New Zealand milk products.
“Use of DCD was suspended by its manufacturers because very small traces of residue were unexpectedly detected in New Zealand milk. DCD residues have been only found in some milk powder products and not in other dairy products such as butter and cheese.
“The detection of these small DCD residues poses no food safety risk. DCD itself is not poisonous,” Mr McNee says.
“DCD is not used directly in or on food in New Zealand and never has been. It is a product used on pastures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the leaching of nitrogen into waterways.
“DCD manufacturers have voluntarily suspended DCD because New Zealand’s international dairy customers expect New Zealand products to be residue-free, where there is no internationally accepted standard for residues for particular compounds. An international standard has yet to be agreed for DCD.
Mr McNee says the European Commission has set an acceptable daily intake for DCD, and based on the highest DCD residue that was detected in New Zealand milk products, a 60 kg person would have to drink more than 130 litres of liquid milk or consume some 60 kg of milk powder to reach the Commission’s limit for an acceptable daily intake, and considerably more to have any health effects.
The Ministry says there is only a small amount of dairy product potentially involved in this issue. DCD has been used by less than five percent of the country’s dairy farmers who applied it only twice a year. Each application leaves only traces of residue on the grass for no more than a few days. This means only very small numbers of New Zealand cows could have come into contact with DCD in very limited time frames.
“The chance of any residues of DCD being present in milk products processed now is minimal,” Mr McNee assures.
“There has been no use of DCD on New Zealand pastures since September 2012, and now that its use has been suspended, it is not possible that any New Zealand dairy produce currently in production will have DCD residues in it.”
There has been absolutely no restriction on dairy sales in New Zealand because of this suspension of DCD use on pasture.
DCD is not melamine. It is a different chemical and has none of the toxicity that melamine has.
Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited Chief Executive Theo Spierings has today reassured global customers that New Zealand dairy products are safe to consume.
“We know some of our customers and regulators have questions.
“We need to answer them, and that’s exactly what we are doing.
“We have strong science and we are providing assurances about the safety of our products.
Let’s keep it in perspective. Our testing has found only minute traces of DCD in samples of some of our products.
“It is important to remember that the minute traces detected were around 100 times lower than acceptable levels under European food safety limits.
“The Ministry of Primary Industries has confirmed that the minute traces pose no risk to human health.
“DCD has never at any point been a food safety issue – and if it had been, we would have been the first to speak out. Fonterra has one of the highest standard food supply chains in the world, and safety is part of our DNA.
“Since November we have been closely involved in a working group with the Government, the fertiliser companies, scientists and other dairy industry representatives gathering information, scientific opinion, and undertaking tests.
“The bottom line? Our products are safe. Customers can rest assured,” said Mr Spierings.
Those are the facts.
DCD was only found in some milk powder products, not in butter or cheese. It poses no food safety risk and it’s not poisonous.
But when it comes to food safety perception and emotion will trump facts.
Overseas media is a carrying the story and that will be enough to make some consumers wary, regardless of the facts.
The risk isn’t a food safety one. It’s a perception and marketing one and will be higher in countries where people can’t trust their government and businesses to tell them the truth.