New Zealand milk powder in hot water
Agriculture minister warns against imports, foreign pressure on AEA to suspend probe
A Government Minister has warned Sri Lankans against the use of imported milk powder while New Zealand, the largest supplier, has mounted pressure to halt an inquiry by the Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) over alleged radioactive contamination. The warning came from Agriculture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena who told Parliament on Friday that imported milk powder from New Zealand should be avoided until conclusive studies were done about the harmful effects.
Reports that chemicals used to spray grass in New Zealand get transferred to the milk are troubling and had to be taken seriously, he said. Minister Abeywardena warned that it could exacerbate the chronic kidney diseases. Atomic Energy Authority Chairman Dr. Ranjith Laxman Wijayawardena told the Sunday Times that New Zealand authorities recently asked the AEA to suspend tests being conducted on random samples of milk powder.
He revealed that two officers of the New Zealand’s Small Industries Ministry recently visited Sri Lanka and met AEA officials and requested the suspension of tests for radiation in New Zealand milk powder.But he said that instructions have been issued to continue radiation tests.
Dr. Wijayawardana vowed that the AEA would not bow to any such foreign pressure when carrying out its duties. The scientific method used to measure the radioactive level of food items is called Gamma Ray Spectrometry.
According to Sri Lankan regulations, the maximum radioactivity level allowed is 20 Bq/kg for milk food and 100 Bq/kg for other food items. This is laid down in a 1969 act of parliament and in a Gazette notification issued in 1995. Bq is the measurement of radiation in food items.
Meanwhile Sri Lanka is conducting further investigations into foreign media reports which alleged that milk powder imported from New Zealand had been contaminated with toxic substances.
On a directive from President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) has sent samples of milk powder from New Zealand to a laboratory in Singapore for testing to ascertain whether it contains Dicyandiamide (DCD), a hazardous agro chemical as alleged by foreign media, officials said.
CAA Director Chandrika Thilakaratne said the laboratory had sent a detailed scientific analytical report on percentages of various substances found in milk powder samples. She said the report had been forwarded to the Food Control Administration Unit of the Health Ministry for its observations on the percentage of toxic substances found during laboratory tests.
Ms. Thilakaratne said the effect of toxic substances on the human body varied with its percentage and concentration. “We still don’t know whether they were found to be below the risk level or above and fit for consumption or not,” she said. The New Zealand media recently reported that Government investigations had revealed traces of soil- treatment product DCD in 371 samples, affecting mainly milk powder. Traces had also been found in one butter product and 11 cheese products.
DCD is a ‘nitrogen inhibitor’ used on pastures to reduce the harmful environmental effects of urea use and runoff from cow effluent.
Milk powder samples imported to Sri Lanka are normally tested by the Food Control Administration Unit of the Health Ministry and the Sri Lanka Standards Institute. Tests are also carried out by the AEA for radiation in milk powder.
In a recent media statement, Dairy Australia Ltd claims DCD has been used in New Zealand to tackle environmental issues.
This chemical is not used by Australian dairy farmers and no residues are expected in Australian dairy products, it said.
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