Dairy industry angry over DCD secrecy

Fonterra and the New Zealand government will be under industry scrutiny this month after failing to inform other dairy exporters of dicyandiamide (DCD) residue discovery.

Members of the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ), whose chairman is Fonterra director Malcolm Bailey, will meet Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) bosses on April 26.

Independent processors and the public were kept in the dark about the chemical residue discovery in Fonterra testing some of its dairy products until four months later, when MPI announced it in late January, stuff.co.nz reported.

Laurie Margrain, chairman of Open Country Dairy, the country’s number two dairy exporter, said the company would be looking for protocols and answers to avoid this debacle.

The Waikato Times attained MPI documents under the Official Information Act, which said MPI decided in November not to disclose Fonterra’s September finding with anybody else.

DCD residue was also discovered at very low levels in dairy products other than milk powder, as first thought. More testing found it in milk protein concentrate, colostrum, nutritional powders and UHT milk.

DCD, which is chemically related to malmine, is used distinctly in New Zealand agriculture, especially dairying, on pasture as a nitrogen inhibitor.

MPI said there was no food safety risks associated with it.

Fertiliser companies like Ballance and Ravensdown no longer sells it.

MPI’s shock announcement in late January triggered alarm in overseas dairy markets, especially China, which had a fatal melamine infant formula poisoning scandal in 2008.

The harsh reaction drove Fonterra’s chief executive to declare the DCD issue a crisis. But according to the documents, Fonterra had been worried about international trade reactions for months.

MPI had a public relations strategy to control the DCD issue since last year. This consisted of having a ‘holding’ PR plan for over Christmas if the DCD issue became public.

However, the documents do not bring to light how involved DCANZ was before the public announcement in January.

MPI said DCANZ was ‘part of a working group’ on DCD. But non-Fonterra DCANZ members said they were unaware of the DCD issue much before the public.

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