While it is good news that the inquiry into the whey protein incident concludes there was no failure with New Zealand’s dairy regulatory system it simply confirms what we already knew, said Michael Barnett, chairman of the NZ Infant Formula Exporters Association.
“We do have world best regulations. We are world leaders in whey production. Within the terms of reference of the inquiry to look into our dairy food safety system the report is a good outcome.”
However in our view the incident was never a failure of our dairy regulations. “It was a failure to manage the situation and the reputational damage it caused New Zealand. This report will not fix that failure,” said Mr Barnett.
“I remain greatly concerned that our members were not part of the incident yet have ended up as collateral damage. Our members’ products were taken off the shelves in China and I cannot see anything specific that will help get them back in to the market and rebuild the confidence of consumers.”
Mr Barnett said he would like to believe that a further investigation being undertaken by the Ministry of Primary Industries looking at the question of what happened and the regulator’s response in managing the incident might provide some answers.
Meanwhile we need to get this good news into the Chinese media and officials channels with some urgency but also some care. “I am a little concerned that even though there was no failure with our regulatory system we have nonetheless come up with a report that has 29 recommendations – to improve a system that is already proven to be among the best in the world. This could be misinterpreted.”
He agreed that an important step to restoring consumer confidence in China was for the Prime Minister and senior Ministers to take this good news directly to counterparts in China.