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Government defends Fonterra's safety

Monday 28 Jan 2013 5:32 p.m.

The Government is defending Fonterra and the safety of its dairy products following the discovery of an agricultural chemical in milk.

Traces of dicyandiamide (DCD) were detected four months ago in some of the dairy giant’s milk products, and the issue has received international media attention.

However, Fonterra swears it has nothing to hide, and claims the DCD was found in such tiny quantities they weren't worth mentioning.

The substance is found in certain fertilisers and is used to prevent nitrogen seeping into waterways. It also contains tiny amounts of melamine, which was the offending chemical in the Chinese milk scandal of 2008 where more than 50,000 children were hospitalised.

Prime Minster John Key is siding with Fonterra.

“You'd have to drink the equivalent of a swimming pool full of milk to have any issues whatsoever,” he says.

“Of course in international markets, which are fragile, there's always concern.”

Federated Farmers vice president William Ralston says the international attention is unwarranted and the fact DCD was picked up - in such tiny quantities - shows how thorough systems are.

“Let's make it quite clear this is not a safety issue, this is an issue of international paperwork. It's actually safer than table salt and it's safer than the chlorine that you have in the water that keeps our water safe,” says Dr Ralston.

The Ministry of Primary Industries maintains it is not a food safety issue.

“It was never that critical. What we wanted to do was get the facts, talk to the companies that own the product and determine what best to do,” says Primary Industries Minister David Carter.

Two of those companies, Balance and Ravensdown, have pulled all DCD products.

Both the Chinese and the Taiwanese are conducting random DCD testing on New Zealand milk being imported into their countries.

Units in the Fonterra shareholder fund dropped 1.5 percent today.

3 News

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