Food safety is first and foremost a matter of health.
That is the first priority for Fonterra and the government as Trade Minister Tim Groser made very clear on Q&A yesterday:
Today our sole concern is on the health of infants and other users of these products, both our own and in the countries’ that we’re exporting to. So it’s not that we don’t think there’s some very important questions, but we’re focusing on the essential problem of today.
“We don’t want Fonterra worrying about their long-term reputation or risks right now. We want everybody focused on the health of the little babies.”
Once the health concerns have been dealt with attention can turn to what happened, how it happened, why it happened, how to make sure it doesn’t happen again and what to do if – as there will be one day – there is another food-safety problem.
This must be done thoroughly and quickly to restore trust not only in Fonterra but in all our food because while health is the first and most important concern, food safety is also an economic matter for New Zealand.
Just how important it is can be seen in the impact on the New Zealand dollar:
The kiwi fell to a month low of 76.99 US cents, and recently traded at 77.15 US cents from 78.31 cents at the New York close and 78.87 cents at the 5pm market close in Wellington on Friday. The trade-weighted index dropped to 73.71 from 75.16.
Lots of people have been wanting a lower dollar.
No-one who understands the importance of food safety and food exports would have wanted it to happen this way.