The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has moved to reiterate the safety of New Zealand dairy products and defuse “concerns” about the use of dicyandiamide (DCD), as reports emerge that some importers have begun screening Kiwi dairy shipments.
Last week, New Zealand’s two biggest fertiliser companies – Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-Nutrients – suspended sales of DCD after residue was found in some September 2012-manufactured dairy products.
DCD, which is applied to pasture by farmers to prevent nitrate leaching into rivers and lakes, is not considered a food safety risk. Despite this, concerns about the safety of milk-based products from New Zealand have increase over the last few days.
According to reports, last week’s revelation has prompted authorities in China, Malaysia and Taiwan to increase their vigilance when it comes to New Zealand-manufactured dairy products.
No safety risk, not poisonous
“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,” said McNee.
“The detection of these small DCD residues poses no food safety risk. DCD itself is not poisonous.”
“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.”
While there is no established international standard for DCD in food, the European Commission (EC) has previously set an acceptable daily intake for the chemical, McNee added.
Based on the highest DCD residue detected in New Zealand dairy products, a 60kg (132 pounds, 9 stone 4 pounds) person would have consume more than 130 litres of liquid milk or 60kg of milk powder to reach the EU intake limit, said McNee.
“Beyond facts” into “uninformed opinion”
New Zealand-based dairy exporter Fonterra was first to discover low-levels of DCD in New Zealand dairy products following the spring 2012 application of the substance. In November 2012, Fonterra informed the MPI of its findings.
The delay has led to suggestions of a cover-up by Fonterra and the New Zealand government.
Federated Farmers of New Zealand has criticised the resulting reports.
“We are aware some media reporting seems to have moved beyond facts and into uninformed opinion,” said Federated Farmers of New Zealand spokesperson on food safety, Dr William Rolleston.
“We are not hiding from genuinely informed criticism but uninformed speculation and innuendo is irresponsible. It is like yelling ‘fire’ in a packed theatre.”
“It is vital to remember that DCDs are considered safe and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. We are here now because there is no internationally agreed acceptable level for DCD residues meaning the default becomes the level of detection,” he said.