Details of Joint Ministerial Inquiry into whey protein contamination

  • Nikki Kaye
  • Nathan Guy
Primary Industries Food Safety

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye have today released the draft terms of inquiry for the Government’s investigation into the whey protein concentrate contamination (WPC) incident.

“The Government has agreed in principle to establish a joint Ministerial-led Government Inquiry which will be divided into two parts,” says Mr Guy.

“Part A will look at how the potentially contaminated whey protein concentrate entered the New Zealand and international market, and how this was subsequently addressed.

“Parts B and C will look at regulatory and best practice requirements against the background of this incident in relation to the dairy industry, including the response of regulators. The inquiry will then report back on any recommended legal, regulatory or operational changes. 

“This will provide the answers needed to the questions that have been raised about this incident, both domestically and internationally. It is also an important step in reassuring our trading partners that we take these issues seriously,” says Mr Guy

The Ministers have invited Miriam Dean QC to chair the inquiry. Ms Dean is the past president of the Bar Association, a former partner at Russell McVeagh, and has held a range of board appointments.

Two other members will also be appointed shortly, one of whom will be an international food safety expert.

The details of the Ministerial inquiry, including the appointment process, are ‘in principle’ because it’s proposed that the inquiry will be carried out using powers in the Inquiries Bill currently before the House.

“I think it is important in terms of independence that we have an international expert on food safety and systems as part of the inquiry,” Ms Kaye says.

“Parts B and C of the inquiry have an interim report back time of three months after the inquiry panel has been formally established.

“This report back will feed into the work plan I already have underway to look at areas where we can strengthen our food systems, which includes infant formula assurance work.

“I have also written to the chair of the Primary Production Select Committee to ask that consideration of the Food Bill be put on hold pending this part of the inquiry into regulatory and best practice requirements,” Ms Kaye says.

The inquiry is in addition to those already announced by the Ministry for Primary Industries and Fonterra.

Attached: Draft terms of reference for the Government Inquiry into whey protein concentrate contamination incident 2013.

Miriam Dean CNZM QC

Miriam Dean has extensive governance and commercial litigation experience. A former partner at Russell McVeagh, she is a barrister sole whose practice focuses on commercial, competition and consumer law, arbitration and mediation.

She is a past president of the New Zealand Bar Association and a member of the Auckland Transition Authority before being appointed a company director of Auckland Council Investments Limited, one of the new Auckland Council controlled organisations managing the Council's investments portfolio.

She is currently Chair of New Zealand On Air and Chair of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme.  She is also a director of Crown Fibre Holdings, the Government's investment vehicle responsible for managing the introduction of ultra-fast broadband to urban areas.

She was made Queen’s Counsel in 2004 and was previously a member of the Government’s Electricity Review, Civil Aviation Authority and the IANZ Council. She was also the lead reviewer of the Crown law Office review.

Ms Dean was recently awarded a New Years Honour for services to the law and business.