The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is exploring interim measures to strengthen consumer assurances around New Zealand's dairy production.
"Our dairy sector trades on New Zealand's reputation, and that reputation is built on the strong assurances our regulatory system provides, and the quality of New Zealand's products," MPI acting director-general Scott Gallacher said.
"The reality is the convergence of events over the last six months has sparked debate about some elements of our food system. We need to respond to that."
"Ministers have established an inquiry process that will yield long term recommendations for how our food safety system in relation to dairy can be further improved. In the meantime, MPI is considering interim measures."
- Lift the regulatory presence in manufacturing premises;
- Lift the level of and nature of testing across dairy production to improve the identification of non-compliance issues;
- Run tracing simulations to test the capability of the industry to rapidly track and trace product through their supply chains;
- Increase reviews of the risk management plans dairy producers have for manufacturing facilities.
"At the same time, MPI is also increasing the level of analysis it routinely undertakes of regulatory non-compliance across the dairy sector. We will be looking for trends that will help us identify whether there are any further interim measures that may be required," Mr Gallacher said.
"In any food system, there are issues that arise from time to time. New Zealand's food system is no different. Our testing regimes are thorough and robust when compared with the world's leading dairy producing nations. And when issues do arise, we deal with them promptly and openly with our trading partners. If there is a food safety risk, we notify the public, and from time-to-time we also notify about broader non-compliance issues, such as the nitrate issue.
"Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement. I am confident these interim measures will help to reinforce consumer trust and confidence in our dairy products," Mr Gallacher said.