Fonterra Crisis Results in NZ Food Safety Council

New Zealand’s Food Safety Minister, Nikki Kaye, confirmed that a Food Safety Assurance Advisory Council is now set up to advise the New Zealand Government.
April 25, 2014

New Zealand’s Food Safety Minister, Nikki Kaye, today confirmed that an independent Food Safety Assurance Advisory Council is now set up to advise the New Zealand Government on food safety issues. 

The establishment of the council is a direct result of a Government inquiry into Fonterra’s whey protein contamination crisis in 2013 - the biggest food safety scare to ever hit New Zealand. The first meeting for the council will be in July this year.

The results from the inquiry were released in December last year and were verified by international expert Professor Alan Reilly who heads up the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. The recommendations from the inquiry report will be implemented throughout 2014/2015 with the Food Safety council now set up and ready to commence operations.

Who Is In the Council?

The Food Safety Assurance Advisory Council will have six members who will be responsible for reviewing New Zealand’s food safety and assurance system and providing advice and risk analysis to the food industry.

These members will be skilled in:

  • Food regulation
  • Public health
  • Science
  • Business
  • International relations

What Happened in the Food Safety Crisis?

The establishment of the council is a direct result of a Government inquiry into Fonterra’s whey protein contamination crisis in 2013.

The crisis involved more than 38 tonnes of whey protein being withdrawn in more than seven countries after dairy products, including infant formula, was suspected of being contaminated with a botulism-causing bacterium.

Further testing showed that this was a false alarm and that the whey protein was actually harmless.

What Other Recommendations Came From the Inquiry?

Apart from the Food Safety Assurance Advisory Council, the Inquiry report recommended 28 other actions be taken. The key recommendations included:

  • A strengthened capability in emerging export markets, particularly China. The whey protein incident was considered to be damaging to relations between New Zealand and China.
  • The establishment of a centre of food safety science and research;
  • Increased dairy processing and regulatory capability;
  • Fast-tracked work to consolidate and simplify legislation and regulations.