Dairy companies are confident security measures at their facilities are tight enough to prevent a 1080 contamination following threats to poison infant formula, despite at least one company being informed of the scare only weeks ago.
Federated Farmers and Fonterra received anonymous letters in November containing packages of milk powder that later tested positive for a concentrated form of 1080. Police and Government departments were informed. But supermarkets, retailers and infant formula distributors were not told until recently.
It has now been revealed dairy company Westland Milk Products was told only in the past few weeks of the threat to contaminate products.
By the time Westland Milk was told, Fonterra had already put extra tests in place and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) had developed a test to identify the poison in milk products.
MPI did not directly answer a question on why Westland Milk was not told sooner, but said: "In recent weeks we informed manufacturers, global infant formula companies, grocery distribution companies and retailers [including supermarkets] of the threat. Westland Milk was advised at the same time as these manufacturers. We have advised all of them so they could put in place additional measures, including extra security."
Westland Milk is based in Hokitika on the West Coast, which has been a hotbed of anti-1080 protests over the years, including a 2007 incident in which letters containing 1080 poison were posted to the Westport Department of Conservation office and the West Coast Regional Council offices in Greymouth.
Rod Quin, chief executive of Westland Milk Products, said the company "already had robust security measures in place" before the 1080 threat was made. It had "to do little to further boost those, other than to advise shareholders and staff to be even more vigilant".
In a statement Synlait said it was "confident our food safety systems and security standards protect the integrity of our products" but had added extra measures.
Security at Synlait plants already included fully fenced sites with electronic gates, comprehensive CCTV coverage and swipe-card access to key areas, the company said.
A Fonterra spokesman said it would not disclose details of its security measures, and directed all such questions to MPI. In a statement, MPI said the manufacturing and distribution chain for infant and other formula "is extremely secure".
If you have any questions about what to feed your baby, call Plunketline 0800 933 922 or Healthline 0800 611 116
For more information go to foodprotection.govt.nz