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New Zealand PM rubbishes Sri Lanka's 'flawed' testing

11 August 2013 06:56 am - 19     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Sri Lankan test results for agricultural chemical Dicyandiamide in Fonterra milk products were "off the charts" in comparison to other "extensive" testing according to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.
 
Officials in Colombo have ordered a recall after they say DCD, a nitrate inhibitor used in fertiliser, was found in two batches of imported milk powder.  

Fonterra disputes DCD traces were present in the product in Sri Lanka and says testing regimes are flawed. The nitrate inhibitor is added to fertiliser and New Zealand officials say it is not dangerous.

The latest contamination scare comes after bacteria that could cause botulism was found in Fonterra infant formula, stemming from a dirty pipe in a Waikato factory.

Fonterra's Leon Clement, in confirming 40 tonnes of product had been recalled, rubbished the testing done by the Sri Lanka's Industrial Technology Institute as "inaccurate"

"As widely reported, Sri Lanka does not have the required technology to test for DCD in milk products,'' he said.

''If incorrect laboratory procedures are used, naturally occurring substances can easily interfere with the analysis, making it appear as though the milk powders contained DCD when this is not the case.''

The ITI test results had been analysed by analytical chemistry expert Professor Brynn Hibbert of the University of New South Wales and found to be inaccurate, Mr Clement said.

The Cawthron Institute had also tested samples from the same batches of product tested by ITI and found no traces of DCD.

Professor Hibbert said the testing method used by ITI was not appropriate to either unequivocally show the presence of the chemical, or quantify that it existed at the alleged levels.

Key, meanwhile, added he was "extremely" confident in the reliability of New Zealand's own tests. But he admits "minor traces" of the chemical were found.
 
"The testing was very extensive," he told reporters at the National Party Conference in Nelson today. "It was tested in other jurisdictions, as I understand it.
 
"The sort of numbers that they [Sri Lanka] were talking about were off the charts and just don't bear any resemblance to anything else we have ever seen."
 
New Zealand's levels were "miles below" the Europe Union standard, he stressed.
 
DCD first became an issue last October when low levels were detected. However, the milk tainting did not become public until February, causing a furore in China and Taiwan, markets already sensitive to a previous milk contamination scare.
 
Sri Lankan officials and media have been agitating about the presence of DCD in New Zealand products since at least May. It is no longer used in fertiliser here.
 
Key stressed this was not a food safety issue. A consumer would "have to drink a swimming pool full of it," he said.
 
"We are very confident that the testing we have done is actually showing the DCD levels at the appropriate levels that they were first tested at when the scare first took place," he said
 
"We have been aware for some time that there has been discrepancies between the testing that has been done in New Zealand and what the Sri Lankan officials believe that they have tested for. I've got to say that we have tremendous confidence in our testing."
 
Key wouldn't speculate on whether Sir Lanka was being opportunist in the wake of last week's Fonterra whey contamination scare."It probably won't be helpful," he added.

Mr Clement added that Fonterra would be working with the Sri Lankan Government to correct the ''misinformation'' about the co-operative's milk powder products, he said.

"These inaccurate testing results have caused a lot of confusion for the public and we want to ensure that people know that they can continue to consume Anchor, a product that many Sri Lankans grew up on.''

Sri Lanka, which has a population of 20.3 million, is New Zealand's fifth largest market for milk powder.

Almost 98 per cent of New Zealand's exports to Sri Lanka off the southeast tip of India comprises dairy products, with some mineral exports.

Fonterra has exported dairy products to Sri Lanka for over 30 years. It also has a processing plant using local milk and produces a range of dairy products.
NZ's primary industries minister Nathan Guy, speaking to reports before Mr Key, also claimed DCD is not a "food safety risk".

"It's something to do with the technical differences between the New Zealand testing system and also what's happening with the Sri Lankan testing system," he explained. "That's been disputed by Fonterra and others."
 
Kiwi representatives in Colombo are working with officials to "try and seek some clarity as to what exactly is happening."
 
He said it was a trade matter and Trade Minister Tim Groser and Foreign Minister Murray McCully are trying to seek answers.
 
"We have got to establish the facts. There are no food safety concerns with DCD. DCD was withdrawn from the New Zealand market in September," he said.
 
"So I think it comes down to the testing systems in the Sri Lankan country."

Cambridge farmer John Searle said unlike last Saturday's botulism scare, he doubted the Sri Lankan situation had much foundation.

''There's no danger or risk at all from DCD, as far as we know. They stopped [New Zealand] farmers from using it last year. I have never used it.
''I can't understand it. Unless they are using old milk powder, it's hard to see how it happened.

''That's just how it is. It seems to be dangerous to do anything these days. I don't think it will hurt us much in the long run. Dairy is the only thing that really makes a decent amount of money for New Zealand. They have tried other things, but nothing else seems to work.''

Likewise, South Waikato farmer Paul Vossen was not worried about the latest development. ''I suspect the Sri Lanka thing might just be an over-reaction. I don't think there is anything in it.''

However, such scares were likely at present, because Fonterra had been moving too slowly in getting information about the botulism contamination to those who needed it. ''That's what happens. People leap to conclusions. ''I think this will all get sorted out, but this is another setback the guys at Fonterra don't need.''
 
New Zealand was at the centre of a DCD scare earlier this year after tiny amounts were detected in dairy produce.
 
Guy said the issue has been "bubbling round" in Sri Lanka for "several months."
 
"The first time I became aware of it was in about May this year when I got sent an article from my counterpart up in Colombia [sic] the minister of agriculture basically saying don't touch New Zealand products because they are toxic. "Which is completely untrue ... DCD is not a food safety issue."
 
He said there has been some "backwards and forwards" on different testing regimes. "There has been some differences of testing that's been ongoing and I just haven't got that period of time. We are trying to get to the bottom of those facts."
 
Fonterra spokesman Roshan Kulasuriya told AFP: "Our milk is 100 per cent pure. But we complied with the directive and have completed the recall of the two batches said to contain traces of DCD."
 
The 100% brand has taken a battering in the wake of the botulism scare. Prime Minister John Key yesterday stood by the slogan, but stressed it was a tourism marketing campaign.

Cabinet will tomorrow discuss establishing a ministerial inquiry into the botulism scare, which saw fierce criticism from Chinese authorities and international media. (Fairfax NZ News)
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  Comments - 19

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  • Porky Pig Sunday, 11 August 2013 07:07 AM

    What for the comments of the learned minister from Sri Lanka. He was supposed to have topped his batch at the University. I can just imagine the level of the rest.

    pahan madugalla Sunday, 11 August 2013 07:29 AM

    Mr .Ariyassili wikramanayaka said that we could make enough dairy product and export even country like Iran .That's what VEN.Bowaththe indarathana thero also said.We stop cattle slaughter and self sufficient this country by milk

    dlevene Sunday, 11 August 2013 07:37 AM

    Sorry, I don't believe the New Zeland government or these 'independent' tests they refer to. Attack is the first/best line of defence for them politically (especially when the farming lobby is so powerful), and saying the testing standards of a comparatively poorer country are flawed appeases the voters/backers in New Zeland because it confirms their prejudices of the Third World. It is only us who know how reliable/clever our people are and we must stand up for them.

    Danny Sunday, 11 August 2013 01:00 PM

    You are proving yourself right :)

    kira Sunday, 11 August 2013 07:52 AM

    Madugalla, wake up! we have heard enough of this shit for so many years and if you are going to believe these statements, good luck and keep dreaming!

    upali Sunday, 11 August 2013 07:57 AM

    "Sri Lanka, which has a population of 20.3 million, is New Zealand's fifth largest market for milk powder" They try to save there market. we are try to save our kids

    peiris Sunday, 11 August 2013 08:05 AM

    The western nations are always right;didn't you know?Ha Ha

    Thivanka Sunday, 11 August 2013 08:20 AM

    Pahan 100% you are correct!

    Dr I.M.C.Fernando,UK Sunday, 11 August 2013 05:32 PM

    The GOSL is absolutely right in banning the NZ milk powder. What the children consume must be pure milk powder. However small the quantity of any toxic substance is not acceptable for children's food, since the toxic substance may accumulate. I have no concerns about the testing process in SL. The NZ Prime Minister must realise that Russia,China and Vietnam have also banned the said milk powder. Instead of trying to rubbish the SL testing he is well advised to correct the problem in NZ !!!!

    Aney Mehema Katha Sunday, 11 August 2013 08:27 AM

    Interesting report from New Zealand - note the mix of science and marketing.

    The analysis was also done by the ".. Cawthron Institute had also tested samples from the same batches of product tested by ITI and found no traces of DCD".

    The Crawthron Institute is funded mainly the Foundation for Research Science and Technology (FRST). " Our mission: Investing for results from research, science and technology to deliver greater - thank you for being explicit.

    " ...prosperity, security and opportunities to all New Zealanders" would of course take priority over the public health of the people of Sri Lanka.

    New Zealand - country of 4 million peope and 20 million sheep and cattle.

    DCOL Sunday, 11 August 2013 08:47 AM

    Normally it is the consumer has the right to check what they consumes. Not the Supplier.

    it is the basic principal

    saman rathnayaka Monday, 12 August 2013 11:34 AM

    punish the who did wrong testing and discredit sri lanka make the laugh in world stage

    Maya Sunday, 11 August 2013 10:51 AM

    Dear Kiri, we are now self sufficient in rice and very soon in potatoes, we can make it if we try but not with your pessimistic thinking... this is not a rocket science...

    kondebendapucheena Sunday, 11 August 2013 10:52 AM

    Naduth hamuduruwange Baduth hamuduruwange

    sanaboy Sunday, 11 August 2013 11:04 AM

    That doesn't mean u can sell poison for consume...

    ANTON Sunday, 11 August 2013 11:05 AM

    THIS IS THE ROOT CAUSE , SRILANKANS DO NOT FOLLOW THE STANDARDS, DO THEY KNOW THE WHO STANDARDS ???

    Yaka Sunday, 11 August 2013 11:07 AM

    It is food for thought if the government, the farmers & the public are spirited enough to favour. Nothing is impossible.

    Kolomba Kakka Sunday, 11 August 2013 11:51 AM

    Like in inferior oil issue, some of our politicos/bureaucrats dreaming for an opportunity to somehow issue a clearance certificate on the banned milk foods stocks and to get their share accordingly.

    Romaine Sunday, 11 August 2013 12:06 PM

    Well Pork Pig being top of the batch doesn't mean when there is a problem with the dried milk powder it reflects the standard of others. NZ may be thinking they are good at testing but there may be scrupulous people who are up to no good. That doesn't say anything about batch tops. It may be a NZ batch top onto the game. Its better to be cautious and check milk powder. NZ must be thinking that SL is a good test ground and carry on. Ha ha!


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