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Part A of WPC Ministerial Inquiry initiated

Hon Nathan Guy

Minister for Primary Industries

Hon Nikki Kaye

Minister for Food Safety

7 May 2014 Media Statement
Part A of WPC Ministerial Inquiry initiated

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye said today that the final part (Part A) of the Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) Contamination Incident will begin on 12 May.

“Part A will examine how the potentially contaminated whey protein concentrate entered the New Zealand international markets and how this was subsequently addressed,” Mr Guy says.

“Part A could not begin until the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) compliance investigation was complete, sentencing had occurred, and the appeal period had expired.

“Inquiry Chair Miriam Dean QC has been conducting preliminary work with the Department of Internal Affairs on a suitable date to begin the inquiry to ensure availability of other inquiry members and that a secretariat is available,” Ms Kaye says.

Ministers have received a letter from the Chair, noting that:

“The Inquiry’s work will take place against the background of the current civil litigation arising from the incident. In these circumstances, it will be especially important to develop processes that are fair to all participants, while also ensuring the matters in the terms of reference are fully addressed in a timely manner.

As you know, the terms of reference require you to specify a date for the final report to be submitted to you. In light of the parallel litigation, and the need to consult with key stakeholders, the Inquiry requires some time to consider and advise you of its views as to a realistic timeframe for Part A. I intend to be in a position to give you that advice by the end of May 2014.”

“This incident has been New Zealand’s largest food safety scare and while there is a need to ensure the inquiry is completed as soon as possible, this needs to be balanced against giving the inquiry team time to take a considered look at what happened and to enable a fair process to all parties involved.

“The Inquiry reported on Parts B and C of the Terms of Reference in December of last year and the Government responded by accepting all 29 recommendations in principle.

“The first inquiry report was focused on our overall dairy food safety regulatory system. It concluded that while our food safety regulatory model is consistent with international principles and is among the best in the world, there were areas where strengthening should occur as the greatest challenges lie ahead.

“Our Government announced a response package to the recommendations in December that includes between $8-12 million in funding.

“We are pleased that over the past five months we have been able to progress most of the recommendations including the Food Safety Science and Research Centre, the Food Safety Assurance Advisory Council, the traceability working group and work on the Food Bill,” Ms Kaye says.

The Government’s inquiry is headed by Miriam Dean CNZM QC, assisted by Tony Nowell CNZM and Dr Anne Astin PSM and includes independent peer reviewer Professor Alan Reilly, Chief Executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

A summary of the Government’s response and progress on each of the recommendations can be found here: http://www.beehive.govt.nz/sites/all/files/WPC_Recommendations_table_May_2014_update.pdf

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