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Toxic chemical dicyandiamide found in Fonterra milk powder

Friday, August 30, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: Fonterra, milk powder, dicyandiamide

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(NaturalNews) Trouble continues for New Zealand-based Fonterra after Sri Lankan officials found dicyandiamide, an agricultural chemical, in milk powder products distributed by the embattled company's local subsidiary. According to reports, recent tests conducted on two Fonterra Anchor products, a full-cream milk powder and a 1+ milk powder for children, revealed the presence of the pasture spray chemical in certain batches of product manufactured between October and December 2012.

Sri Lanka's Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) conducted the new tests after earlier ones from September 2012 found traces of the chemical, which is sometimes sprayed on grazing pastures to help control nitrogen loss caused by cattle urine, in other Fonterra products. The initial discovery was believed to be an isolated incident, but, now that two more products have turned up contaminated, officials plan to expand their analysis to cover other Fonterra products, as well as those produced by other companies.

"Now we have decided to test all the milk powder in the market including other Fonterra products," ITI Chief Executive G.A.S. Premakumara said to reporters following the new revelation.

Botulism scare a 'false alarm,' says Fonterra CEO

As you may already be aware, Fonterra has recently been in the headlines quite a bit after milk products exported to China, Vietnam and a handful of other mostly Asian countries were suspected to have been contaminated with a bacteria known to cause botulism. Import bans were almost immediately instituted in China following this discovery, but Fonterra executives, including company CEO Theo Spierings, have since come out to claim that the botulism scare was a "false alarm."

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan government is pushing its own farmers to produce more of their own milk, so potentially risky imports from New Zealand will inevitably decrease over time. Some activist groups in the country, including the so-called National Freedom Front (NFF), are also pushing for the same end, as indicated by recent protests that took place at Fonterra Brand Lanka's head office.

"We should make our own milk powder," read one sign held up by an NNF protester, as riot police tarried nearby to make sure the situation did not become unruly. "Ban toxic yoghurt advertisement immediately," read another sign held next to a large coffin plastered with giant pictures of Fonterra products.

Sri Lanka has already cut its milk imports down by more than 12 percent

According to Reuters, the Sri Lankan government has already instituted measures aimed at increasing the availability of locally-produced, fresh milk throughout the country, including forcing state-owned company Milco to buy all farmers' unsold milk. These and other efforts, according to the latest available figures, have already resulted in a 12.3 percent decrease in dairy imports into the country, which were valued at $307.3 million in 2012.

"It is not a difficult task to close down Fonterra for a country which eradicated terrorism," said NNF spokesman Mohammed Musammil to a group of protesters. "We request all the people to unite to send Fonterra home in the same way they united to end the terrorism."

To be fair, Fonterra has been cooperative throughout the entire process both in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, as it was the entity that commissioned independent testing in the first place. Fonterra voluntarily recalled hundreds of millions of dollars worth of product, much of which was determined to be safe, and has had no qualms about owning up to potential problems lurking at its farms.

"From a food industry perspective Fonterra did exactly the right thing -- they put public safety first," Katherine Rich, CEO of Food & Grocery Council, said to reporters recently after it was learned that Fonterra whey protein products were, indeed, safe and free of botulism.

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