Taipei, Jan. 25 (CNA) There is no food safety problem associated with the use of dicyandiamide (DCD), a substance used by some farmers for environmental protection, the New Zealand representative office in Taiwan said Friday, stressing that its country's milk powders and other dairy products remain safe for consumption.
The very low amounts of residue of DCD found in a small number of milk powder products from New Zealand will have no effect on consumers, the New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office said in a press statement.
The office was responding to a report in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) a day earlier that New Zealand's two biggest fertilizer companies -- Ravensdown Ltd. and Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd. -- had suspended sales of dicyandiamide, or DCD, after low levels of the toxic substance were found in the country's dairy products.
According to the WSJ report, farmers tend to apply DCD to pastures to prevent nitrates, a fertilizer byproduct that can also cause health problems, from getting into rivers and lakes.
The report has caused concern from Taiwan's Department of Health (DOH).
Tsai Shu-jen, a section chief at the DOH's Food and Drug Administration, said her office has asked local importers of New Zealand dairy products to check whether their products have come from the 500 dairy farms that apply DCD to their pastures.
"The importers are required to submit reports to our office on Jan. 28 at the earliest," Tsai said.
The Food and Drug Administration has also asked the New Zealand government to provide all relevant documents and data, Tsai said.
The New Zealand representative office said in its statement that "DCD is a non-harmful, water-soluble compound. It is biodegradable in soil."
"It is used by some farmers for environmental reasons to reduce nitrates in soil and reduce the release of greenhouse gases from agriculture," the statement added.
At present, less than 5 percent of New Zealand's dairy farms use DCD, it said.
The New Zealand government has acknowledged that low levels of DCD have been detected in a small number of milk powder products, the statement said, but added that in New Zealand no dairy products are being withdrawn from sale, because they are safe for consumers.
"There is no need for consumers in Taiwan to be concerned about the safety and quality of New Zealand dairy products," the statement said.
It added that at present there is no international standard for DCD residue in food.
"This is because DCD has not been considered to have any impact on food safety," said the statement.
However, as a precaution, the statement said, New Zealand has stopped using DCD while it considers whether to seek an international standard and what other steps should be taken concerning the use of DCD in the future.
(By Rogge Chen and Sofia Wu)