WELLINGTON, Aug. 19 -- The New Zealand government announced Monday that its investigation into the Fonterra contamination crisis would look at the causes of and the official response to the botulism scare.
The announcement came as another New Zealand dairy firm, Westland Milk Products, confirmed it was involved in a food security alert over a product exported to China.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye said the government's investigation into Fonterra's whey protein concentrate contamination (WPC) incident would be divided into two parts.
"Part A will look at how the potentially contaminated whey protein concentrate entered the New Zealand and international market, and how this was subsequently addressed," Guy said in a statement.
"Parts B and C will look at regulatory and best practice requirements against the background of this incident in relation to the dairy industry, including the response of regulators. The inquiry will then report back on any recommended legal, regulatory or operational changes."
The probe would answer questions that had been raised about the incident, both domestically and internationally.
"It is also an important step in reassuring our trading partners that we take these issues seriously," said Guy.
The ministers had appointed a senior lawyer, Miriam Dean, to chair the inquiry and two other members would also be appointed shortly, including an international food safety expert.
"I think it is important in terms of independence that we have an international expert on food safety and systems as part of the inquiry," Kaye said in the statement.
Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings welcomed the inquiry, which is in addition to two inquiries being carried out by the company and another by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
"We want to do everything we can to make sure our farmers, customers, governments, unit holders, and the general public have full confidence in Fonterra and our products," he said in a statement.
Earlier Monday, MPI announced that it had revoked export certificates for four consignments of lactoferrin, made by Westland Milk Products, after they were found to have excessive levels of nitrate.
One batch was exported directly to China by Westland as an ingredient for other dairy products and the second was supplied to the North Island-based Tatua Co-operative Dairy Company, and also exported to China.
Both companies had told the MPI that a small amount of the lactoferrin was used in consumer products, but none of the products had reached consumers, and any food safety risk was " negligible," according MPI acting director-general Scott Gallacher.
Earlier this month, China banned some Fonterra products after the company revealed that 38 tonnes of whey protein used by other manufacturers, including makers of infant formula, was contaminated with a bacteria that can cause botulism.