NZ moves to restore trust

Updated: 2013-01-29 07:25

By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)

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NZ moves to restore trust

Fonterra Cooperative Group Ltd promotes its milk powder products at a dairy expo in Beijing. The New Zealand dairy giant said its products are safe after media reported that trace chemical residues were detected in its products. Wu Changqing / For China Daily

Ambassador insists its dairy products are safe

The New Zealand government and the country's dairy giants have tried to restore confidence in their products after China's quality watchdog asked New Zealand authorities to hand in a detailed risk assessment report.

The move follows the detection of chemical residues in dairy products originating from the country.

Carl Worker, the country's ambassador to China, insisted at a news conference on Monday in Beijing that all of the country's dairy products are safe, including all of the products exported to China.

Worker apologized for the confusion that has surrounded the suspension of the use of DCD, or dicyandiamide, on farmlands in New Zealand and the concerns that occurred in China.

"There is no food safety risk," Worker said. "New Zealand assures all consumers that New Zealand dairy products are safe."

He stressed that the detection of small DCD residues posed no food safety risk and that the chemical itself is not hazardous to health.

DCD is used to improve water quality on farms by reducing nitrate levels, as well as to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Traces of DCD were first discovered in September but Fonterra didn't disclose the findings then because it believed there was no food safety risk, said Kelvin Wickham, president of Greater China & India of Fonterra Cooperative Group Ltd.

A person weighing 60 kilograms would have to drink more than 130 liters of milk to be over the European Commission's acceptable daily intake of DCD, and "considerably" more to have adverse health effects, according to Wayne McNee, director-general of New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries.

Worker said the country has voluntarily suspended DCD use because New Zealand's international dairy customers expect their products to be residue-free, and there is no internationally accepted standard for residues for particular compounds.

An international standard has yet to be agreed for DCD, Worker said.

"The decision was taken not because of concerns for health or safety issues," Worker said. "But because of the desire to take precautions to avoid the risk of uncertainties and confusion."

But the ambassador said he regrets the lack of forewarning to the Chinese regulatory authorities, which would make it easier to stop confusion, uncertainty and doubts among Chinese consumers of New Zealand dairy products.

Worker met officials of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine on Monday morning, with the latter requesting a more detailed report from New Zealand authorities.

Wickham said at the news conference that he felt sorry for the confusion surrounding the issue, adding that he believes that there is some misunderstanding.

"It is not a safety issue and never has been," Wickham said. "China is an important market to New Zealand and we take it very seriously."

He said Fonterra is working with regulators to provide more information.

The news has prompted concerns among Chinese consumers and trade partners as New Zealand dairy products take up nearly 80 percent of China's dairy imports.

New Zealand dairy products, of which 95 percent are exported, will be hit by the latest news, said Jian Aihua, an analyst at CIConsulting.

Wang Jing, the mother of a 1-year-old and a loyal buyer of New Zealand milk powder brands, was disappointed after she heard the news.

"We buy foreign brands for their product safety. Which brand should I trust now?"

(China Daily 01/29/2013 page15)