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DCD scare will enhance NZ's reputation - Federated Farmers

Tuesday 29 Jan 2013 8:54 a.m.

The head of Federated Farmers says Fonterra only had to report the presence of agricultural chemical dicyandiamide in its milk because of a "technicality".

Both the Government and Fonterra have reassured the public and our trading partners that there is nothing to fear from dicyandiamide, also known as DCD, which is used to prevent nitrogen seeping into waterways.

Fonterra says the traces of the substance – found four months ago – were so small they were not worth mentioning. Federated Farmers CEO Conor English agrees, saying there has been a "massive overreaction".

"It's been treated as a contaminant – actually it's just a residue, and we've got this bizarre situation where just because there isn't an international standard, technically speaking, the government agencies have had to respond to this," he told Firstline this morning.

"I think the outcome of this will be our reputation for food safety will actually be enhanced, because if we've responded the way that we have with this chemical – which is non-toxic, it's fully biodegradable, it's got no health harm effects, unless you drink tonnes of the stuff – and we've taken this quite severe action, then I think our reputation will be enhanced in the medium term – but right now, it's under a bit of threat."

Mr English says the Government was required to report finding traces of DCD in Fonterra's milk only because there isn't an internationally agreed safe level.

"If there was an international standard, it would be set at a level way higher than the detections of the residues have been, and there wouldn't be an issue at all. It's just more of a technicality here that we've sort of got ourselves into a bit of trouble with."

Milk tested yesterday in Taiwan showed levels of DCD "in the margin of error", says Mr English, who believes the controversy will actually help New Zealand's reputation as a safe food exporter.

"The outcome of this will be our reputation for food safety will actually be enhanced, because if we've responded the way that we have with this chemical – which is non-toxic, it's fully biodegradable, it's got no health harm effects, unless you drink tonnes of the stuff – and we've taken this quite severe action, then I think our reputation will be enhanced in the medium term – but right now, it's under a bit of threat."

Prime Minister John Key said yesterday a person would have to drink "a swimming pool full of milk" to experience any side effects of DCD.

Federated Farmers vice-president William Ralston said at the levels detected, DCD is "safer than table salt and it's safer than the chlorine that you have in the water that keeps our water safe".

Fonterra has issued a number of statements over the past few days, reassuring export markets the milk is safe to drink.

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