20 Aug 2013

Govt's Fonterra inquiry to be two-pronged

6:25 am on 20 August 2013

The Government is planning a two-pronged inquiry into Fonterra's whey protein contamination scare.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye have announced details of the inquiry but they can not be confirmed until the Government gets its Inquiries Bill through Parliament.

The discovery of contaminated whey protein concentrate earlier this month prompted recalls of products in New Zealand and overseas, including in China.

Several inquiries have been launched, with the Government one to look at two aspects, the first being how the contaminated whey protein concentrate entered the local and international markets, and how that was dealt with.

The second part will look at regulatory and best practice requirements in the dairy industry, and the response from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

"A whole list of things that will be worked through once we get the inquiries bill through. That will be done in three months," Mr Guy said.

Queen's Counsel Miriam Dean will chair the inquiry, which will report back on any recommended legal, regulatory or operational changes. Two other inquiry members will also be appointed, one of whom will be an international food safety expert.

Fonterra and the Ministry for Primary Industries are also running their own investigations.

Meanwhile, MPI has revoked export certificates for four consignments of milk protein lactoferrin manufactured by Westland Milk Products.

The move followed the detection of levels of nitrate which exceed the New Zealand standard in lactoferrin exported to China.

Westland has traced the elevated nitrate levels back to the cleaning process that affected two batches of lactoferrin produced at its Hokitika plant.

One of the batches was exported directly to China by Westland, while the second batch was supplied to Waikato's Tatua Dairy Co-operative and also ended up in China.