Fonterra wants Sri Lanka to re-analyze its ‘rejected’ milk food samples

Says still being harassed over ‘date of manufacture’


by Suresh Perera

In a dramatic development, Fonterra, New Zealand’s dairy giant, has officially called for an immediate re-analysis of the samples of its milk food stocks, which were rejected and withdrawn from the Sri Lanka market on the basis of alleged dicyandiamide (DCD) contamination, a high-ranking official said last week.

"As we remain convinced that our products were free of any strains of this agricultural chemical, an official intimation was made to the Sri Lankan government for a fresh check, preferably from another laboratory using the globally accepted methodology in analyzing milk powder for DCD contamination", he said.

At the outset, the ‘Anchor’ milk food samples sent by the Health Ministry to a laboratory in Thailand had tested negative, but in a subsequent analysis, the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) claimed that it discovered DCD strains in the batches placed under the microscope.

"We want all doubts and misgivings about our products cleared so that the trust and confidence amongst the public on Fonterra could be restored. That’s why a request for a fresh analysis from a different recognized laboratory has been sought", the official explained.

He said that diverse "contradictory versions" have emanated from different health sector institutions on this critical issue adding to the confusion and leading to more controversy. "A re-analysis will show where we collectively stand".

"Some of the best laboratories around the globe, where our samples were analyzed, determined that our milk food is devoid of DCD or any deleterious strains", he stressed. "It is now up to Sri Lanka to secure a second opinion on the issue".

The new batches of Fonterra milk food, which were tested in Sri Lanka and released to the market after tests proved they are "safe for consumption" were still being ordered off the shelves and confiscated by Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) throughout the country when they find a prior June 2013 ‘date of manufacture’ indicated on the packs, the official complained.

This is illogical because stocks of milk food manufactured in New Zealand in April 2013, for example, takes at least three months to be sent to Sri Lanka, depending on demand and supply and other factors, he elaborated. "It is the ‘packed date’ they should be looking at".

But, that is not happening, he protested. "Traders fear to sell our products and even some supermarkets have taken stocks off the shelves for fear of punitive action".

"At the Customs, we declare the date of manufacture and date of arrival. Stocks manufactured in New Zealand on April 15, for example, would arrive in Sri Lanka only after June 1", he noted. "The sea voyage itself takes one month".

"We are now saddled with huge stocks as even consignments tested by ITI and cleared by the Health Ministry are not being allowed to be sold because they had been manufactured before June 2013", he continued. "If they are to go by the date of manufacture, there won’t be any stocks that can be distributed".

Defending the raids by PHIs, a senior health official said they were intervening on the basis of a Health Ministry directive that stocks "manufactured prior to June should not be permitted to be sold".

"That is the fundamental blunder", the Fonterra official interjected. "The official directive should have logically intimated the date of packing and not the date of manufacture".

He said that dairy industry officials from New Zealand who arrived in Sri Lanka personally supervised the removal of the relevant batches. "Even after ITI has given the green light, we are still being harassed with orders to take off the shelves products that had been cleared by the authorities".

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...