Keeping it in perspective

August 8, 2013

A lot of the media have been referring to the contaminated whey scandal.

On Monday’s Farming Show, Jim Hopkins pointed out that it was a scare not a scandal and Macdoctor adds some more perspective to the issue:

With everyone all abuzz about the latest Fonterra debacle, the MacDoctor thought it may be helpful to inject a little perspective into the situation by comparing it with the SanLu scandal.

SanLu Fonterra
Contaminant: Melamine C. Botulinus
Introduced by: Deliberate, For profit Accidental
Discovered by: Investigation after death of children Routine Investigation
Time taken to public announcement: 5 weeks from confirmation 3 days from confirmation
Number injured 300 000 0
Number hospitalised 54 000 0

Last night’s media release makes the contrast even greater – there was almost no time wasted in making a public announcement.

Contrary to earlier reports, Fonterra didn’t confirm tests until Friday and immediately notified the Ministry of Primary Industries and the public notices followed within hours.

That the company’s inept public relations was responsible for earlier information doesn’t reflect well on it.

Thankfully its food safety standards are considerably better than its initial communication led us to fear.

And for a completely different perspective The Civilian says Chinese media says problem with New Zealand economy is that New Zealand isn’t a ruthless dictatorship:

Chinese media have lashed out at New Zealand this week following the potential contamination of thousands of tins of baby formula by dairy giant Fonterra, saying that it was only able to happen because the country’s economy was not governed by a ruthless authoritarian state willing to terrify its citizens and companies into compliance.

Writing in the China Daily, columnist Huan Bai blamed the recent contamination scare on New Zealand’s “individualist philosophy” which “puts emphasis on personal freedoms ahead of efficiency,” and a laissez-faire economic system that allowed human beings to make choices for themselves, pursue their dreams and be content in their own fallibility without living in continual fear of execution if something goes wrong. . .


Our pain, their gain

August 6, 2013

When the Dutch student who is visiting us heard about the possible contamination of some of Fonterra’s whey, he said, “that could be good for Holland”.

He’s right, New Zealand’s pain could be other countries’ gain:

A top Kiwi milk powder manufacturer is warning the latest infant formula crisis will see western European competitors take advantage of New Zealand’s tarnished brand, and secure contracts in our key export markets.

The CEO of Peak Nutrition, Stephen Julian, says Holland and Germany are already well positioned to profit from New Zealand’s dairy issues and sign deals with some of our traditional export partners like China.

Julian says Holland currently exports around eight billion dollars in dairy products compared to New Zealand’s ten billion annually.

“If you look at the global players, the Dutch market has been hot on our heels for a long time, they are renowned for their dairy production and have much to gain from our latest dairy crisis and Germany isn’t far behind.

“China is a critical market for us and this is not the first time we’ve been embroiled in a dairy scandal, we know how particular the Chinese are about standards and this will impact heavily on our industry as a whole.”

Julian says while his milk powders are not affected by the crisis, as they are made using wet blend technology and are produced and packaged locally, he sympathises with Kiwi parents who are confused about what products are safe for them to purchase for their children.

Julian says it is these Kiwi mums and dads who have most to lose from the latest crisis and the loss will be two-fold.

“Not only are these parents faced with a situation where they are unsure of which formula is safe for their child, the on-going economic repercussions for the nation as a whole could be catastrophic,” he says.

“It is sad to see our global reputation as one of the most trusted dairy producers damaged once again in such a high profile way. We have to hope that this crisis does not affect the New Zealand brand so gravely that it impacts our other primary food producers.” . . .

Fonterra is a strong brand but New Zealand is even stronger and concerns over the whey contamination could impact not just on other dairy products but on any and all other food we produce.

News late yesterday that China hadn’t shut the door to all our dairy products gives some reassurance, but it’s not just officials and governments we have to convince about the safety of our food, it’s the consumers.

Producers in other countries will have sympathy for us but they will also be ready to step into any gaps in the market that are created by concerns over our produce.


How important is food safety?

August 5, 2013

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.


Rural round up

August 4, 2013

Food, drink and stock feed in whey crisis – Stephen Bell,

No Fonterra-branded consumer products are affected by contaminated whey, the firm said this morning.

It referred to the crisis following revelations it had produced 38 tonnes of whey concentrate contaminated with the potentially deadly Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism, as “the quality issue”.

The farmer co-operative’s statement said it had assured consumers in global markets including Australia, Asia, China, Latin America, New Zealand and the Middle East that none of its range of branded consumer products contained the affected whey protein concentrate (WPC80).

In addition to branded consumer products, Fonterra markets a range of commercial ingredients under its NZMP label. These ingredients are sold to other food companies that use them to manufacture their own consumer products. . .

Fonterra botulism scare caused by dirty pipe –  Amelia Wade , Matthew Theunissen:

The potential contamination of Fonterra products with botulism occurred as a result of a dirty pipe at the company’s Hautapu plant, it says.

Fonterra is still refusing to disclose which of its eight customers were potentially affected by the contamination, saying it was up to them and their regulatory authorities to make those decisions.

Managing director of New Zealand milk products Gary Romano said the contamination occurred as a result of a dirty pipe at Fonterra’s Hautapu plant in Waikato. . .

Russia bans all Fonterra products  – Christopher Adams:

Russia has made one of the most extreme responses to Fonterra’s contamination scare so far, banning all goods made by the New Zealand dairy giant, according to media reports.

Russia was not on the list of affected countries released by Trade Minister Tim Grocer yesterday, which included New Zealand, Australia, China, Vietnam and Thailand.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that the country’s consumer-protection watchdog was recalling Fonterra’s products, including infant formula, and advising consumers in Russia not to buy its products. . .

 

Asparagus bred to beat fungus – Tony Benny:

Canterbury plant breeder Peter Falloon has developed the world’s first asparagus cultivar to have resistance to phytophthora, a fungus that eats the plants’ roots and can devastate crops.

“It is exciting and the nice thing is it’s done in New Zealand, so the growers here can take advantage of it,” he said.

“One of the main drivers in food crops is reduced chemical application and this is a major aim of the asparagus industry in New Zealand. So this gives it a jump on the rest of the world.

“We can back some of our clean, green claims with the fact that this is one more chemical that we’re not using.” . . .

New HortNZ head well know to industry – Peter Watson:

Life just got even busier for Nelson fruit and berry grower Julian Raine with his election as president of Horticulture New Zealand.

Raine, who already has roles in other industry organisations, took over this week from Andrew Fenton who has been president since HortNZ’s inception in 2005.

Fenton said Raine was well respected in the industry and the ideal person to steer the national organisation through the next stage of its journey to becoming a $10 billion industry by 2020.

Raine, who was elected to the HortNZ board in 2011, said he accepted the nomination for president because he wanted to make a difference. . .

Organic carrots no hippy operation – Tony Cronshaw:

Rows of carrots spaced with a precision that could not be done by the human eye give the first clue that the Hicks family runs a modern arable operation.

There are no sandals or hippy beads at Willowmere Organic Farm in Hororata.

On the contrary, cultivated rows of carrots and other crops are prepared and planted at the large operation owned by the Hicks family of Kelvin and his parents, John and Trish, with satellite- aligned GPS equipment.

Kelvin says they make the most of advanced technology to push organic production. . .

Meads goes from breeding to beefing up events – Hugh Stringleman:

Performance Beef Breeders (PBB) chief executive Murray Meads has stepped down after 16 years to concentrate on events management and a new restaurant for the centre of Feilding.

Since 1997 Meads has grown the PBB bureau from four full-time staff members to 16, for the needs of 13 beef cattle breed societies and ancillary services and events.

His future role is events and project manager for Hot Wire Events, a new subsidiary of PBB. . .

This beautiful “189 Miles” wool installation by Angela Wright, featured in the Wool Modern Exhibition in Syndey in 2012 and wallspace at All Hallows church, London:

This beautiful wool installation by Angela Wright, featured in the Wool Modern Exhibition in Syndey in 2012. Click on the link to see the original exhibition and the creation process behind it  http://bit.ly/16NprGw
An illustrated explanation of how it was made is here. (Hat tip: Campaign for Wool)

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