Ministers announce details of inquiry into whey protein contamination

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye have released the draft terms of inquiry for the Government’s investigation into the whey protein concentrate contamination (WPC) incident.

“The Government has agreed in principle to establish a joint Ministerial-led Government Inquiry which will be divided into two parts,” says Mr Guy.

“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.

“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.

“This will provide the answers needed to the questions that have been raised about this incident, both domestically and internationally. It is also an important step in reassuring our trading partners that we take these issues seriously,” says Mr Guy

The Ministers have invited Miriam Dean QC to chair the inquiry. Ms Dean is the past president of the Bar Association, a former partner at Russell McVeagh, and has held a range of board appointments.

Two other members will be appointed shortly, one of whom will be an international food safety expert.

The details of the Ministerial inquiry, including the appointment process, are ‘in principle’ because it’s proposed that the inquiry will be carried out using powers in the Inquiries Bill currently before the House.

“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,” Ms Kaye says.

“Parts B and C of the inquiry have an interim report back time of three months after the inquiry panel has been formally established.

“This report back will feed into the work plan I already have underway to look at areas where we can strengthen our food systems, which includes infant formula assurance work.

“I have also written to the chair of the Primary Production Select Committee to ask that consideration of the Food Bill be put on hold pending this part of the inquiry into regulatory and best practice requirements,” Ms Kaye says.

The inquiry is in addition to those already announced by the Ministry for Primary Industries and Fonterra.

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