Fonterra and New Zealand’s government are trying to reassure officials in key export markets that the country’s milk supply is safe, after traces of agricultural chemical dicyandiamide were found in some dairy products.

Fonterra said late last week that it backs a suspension on dicyandiamide (DCD) use on agricultural land treatment in New Zealand’s dairy industry. Fertiliser firms Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-Nutrients have voluntarily suspended sales and use of DCD until further notice. 

DCD is an emerging treatment to prevent nitrogen leaching in soil, but recent tests have show it is present at low levels in some New Zealand dairy products.

There is no health risk at the levels found, according to both Fonterra and government officials, but no international limit exists for DCD and there are concerns about how key export markets would react to DCD residues in milk.
 
New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries said: “Although there is no food safety concern, even at the low levels detected international regulators and customers are likely to view DCD residues as a contaminant. As there is no international standard for DCD in food, any residue could be considered unacceptable to New Zealand’s trading partners.”

Fonterra’s MD for co-operative affairs, Todd Muller, said: “DCD residues in agricultural products may present a future trade issue.”
 
Jacqueline Rowarth, a professor of agribusiness at The University of Waikato, said: “Experiments with mice indicate that the lethal dose for table salt is four grams per kilogram of body weight. For DCD it is over 10 grams per kilogram.”