When I heard the news yesterday that hormones in milk might be behind the early sexual development of Chinese girls I feared the worst.
This was going to be a repeat of the Sanlu melamine poisoning scandal and once more Fonterra was implicated.
Fonterra is a supplier of milk powder to Synutra International but we understand Synutra sources some milk locally and imports whey powder from Europe.
In New Zealand there are strict legislative controls on the use of Hormonal Growth Promotants (HGPs) – they are not allowed to be used on milking cows.
The strict controls mean that it is not necessary for New Zealand milk or milk products to be routinely tested.
Fonterra remains 100% confident about the quality of its products.
Thankfully our reputation for high standards of food safety mean when Fonterra says this.
Thankfully too, Dunedin School of Medicine’s head of paediatrics Professor Barry Taylor says it’s unlikely milk powder is the cause.
“If there were three cases here in Otago I probably would not jump up and down. And certainly not if there were three cases in several many millions of people. There would be a natural number occurring, and I suspect, [if milk powder was the cause] there would be somewhat more than three,” Taylor told ONE News.
But false alarm or not, it is another reminder that the standards we adhere to in New Zealand are not those in all other countries.
Where Fonterra would almost certainly believed, the story of the cover-ups in the Sanlu scandal show that it would be difficult to put the same level of trust in Chinese companies.
Adolf at No Minsiter says this is the reason we should prevent Chinese interests from buying up large chunks of our dairy industry.
I wouldn’t go that far but I do think it is essential that the integrity of our food production and processing is safeguarded whether it is foreign companies operating here or ours operating in other countries.
We can’t compete on price with countries like Brazil but we can compete on quality. Food safety is an important ingredient in our reputation for quality and we can not afford to have it compromised by people who don’t share our standards.