The New Zealand government has announced that it has set up a working group to improve dairy product traceability in the wake of Fonterra' global recall last year of whey protein concentrate mistakenly suspected of containing a botulism-casing bacteria.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye said in a joint statement that the group would comprise representatives of the food and dairy industries and would report directly to the director-general of the Ministry for Primary Industries.
"The independent Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) Contamination Incident highlighted the importance of effective systems for dairy traceability," Guy said in the statement.
"The inquiry recommended lifting the dairy sector's ability to trace products and ingredients through a working group focusing on regulatory and worldwide best practices."
The group would investigate changes to regulations and industry practices to improve the traceability of dairy products and to further protect the public in the event of a suspected food safety issue, Kaye said in the statement.
"It is crucial for government and industry to work together on this issue. In order to have full traceability, both government and industry systems must be robust and aligned," Kaye said.
Chair of the group, which will meet March 2014 for the first time, would be Dr John Larkindale, a former New Zealand High Commissioner to Australia, Deputy Head of Mission in Beijing and Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The group will be made up of members from various organizations, including the Food and Grocery Council, the New Zealand Retailers Association and Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand.
Fonterra issued the global recall at the beginning of August last year, when tests indicated the whey protein concentrate could have been contaminated with a bacteria that could cause botulism, but further tests at the end of the month cleared the product.