The poison 1080 is "now the most tightly regulated toxic substance in New Zealand", Environment Minister Nick Smith says, following the emergency introduction of tighter rules following a threat against baby milk formula was revealed this week.

Previously there was an exemption for use of 1080 and other toxic substances like cyanide and arsenic in research laboratories, but the loop-hole was closed on Tuesday night after the Government sought approval from the Governor-General to sign off the new regulations.

Dr Smith told TV3's Firstline programme this morning it was the only area where he had held concerns about the handling of 1080 within New Zealand.

"I'm satisfied that the overall regulation that we have around 1080 is very robust," he said. "There is obviously speculation as to how these eco-terrorists were able to get hold of the very pure grade 1080.


"The only part where I had a concern about how strong the regulations were is that there is exemption for research laboratories that may have a few grams as part of their research programme.

Changes put in place yesterday required research labs to report their use of 1080 to the Environmental Protection Authority.

This would allow the EPA to "effectively trace every gram of this chemical that's coming into New Zealand", he said.

"In effect, what it means is no one can now have pure-grade 1080 unless they have been approved to be able to have it."

He described the previous law as a "small exemption" to enable labs to carry out research using substances like 1080, cyanide, arsenic and "a lot of chemicals", but in the wake of the milk formula threat that needed to be tightened.

"Given the fact that we have got a criminal out there trying to get access to this very pure 1080 powder we just need to tighten those rules up an extra knot," he said.

"What these new regulations mean is that there's just this extra level of tightness around 1080. In fact, it is now the most tightly regulated toxic substance in New Zealand."

Meanwhile, a shipment of New Zealand milk powder has been stopped at the Chinese border, the Infant Formula Exporters Association said, blaming the Government for not communicating with the industry prior to making the threat public on Tuesday.


"We've been told by the importer that more certification is required, that the Shanghai CIQ [China Inspection and Quarantine] have held up the shipment as to such time as testing has been conducted on that shipment, and we know specifically they're requesting certification from New Zealand," Chris Claridge of the Infant Formula Exporters Association said.

It was "quite normal" for the Chinese authorities to request further documentation on possible affected imports following such a scare, he said, but the Government should have informed exporters before shipments left New Zealand ports.

"I think if the Government knew that they were at some point going to go live with this, they should have informed - and they still haven't informed - exporters that export certification is required," he told Firstline.

"Shipments, until basically two days ago, have been leaving New Zealand without adequate certification, so if the Government knew in advance, it could have alerted exporters and exporters could have put in place the necessary documentation to avoid any problems at the port."

The threat was affecting shipments of all milk powders to China, not just infant formula, he said.

The implications of another milk formula-related scare would "diminish confidence in New Zealand products", Mr Claridge said.

"It means it makes it more difficult for us to compete in the Chinese market against other imported products, say from Europe or North America."