New Zealand: Food contamination: the Fonterra inquiry commences

Last Updated: 7 October 2013

A Government inquiry into the whey protein concentrate contamination incident (the Fonterra Inquiry) has commenced. The Fonterra Inquiry will be carried out under the new Inquiries Act that came into force on 27 August 2013 after being fast-tracked through its second and third readings following the Fonterra incident.

The Fonterra Inquiry

The purpose of the Fonterra Inquiry is to strengthen New Zealand's food safety system to protect New Zealand's reputation in the food industry. The Fonterra Inquiry is split into three parts:

  • What happened: Part A will inquire into and report on how the potentially contaminated whey protein concentrate entered the New Zealand and international market, and how this was subsequently addressed. This part of the Fonterra Inquiry will only commence once the compliance investigation by the Ministry for Primary Industries (the MPI Investigation) is completed.
  • Regulatory and Best Practice Requirements: Part B will inquire into and report on the regulatory and other best practice requirements that govern food safety standards for the New Zealand dairy industry, including product testing, traceability, reporting, risk management and the role of regulators.
  • International Standards: Part C will assess how New Zealand's regulatory and best practice requirements compare with standards in comparable jurisdictions.

The Fonterra Inquiry will prepare an interim report on Parts B and C within three months. This interim report will recommend legal and regulatory changes to prevent or minimise similar incidents in future, as well as changes to operational practice in light of the lessons learned. A final report will follow in parts after the conclusion of the MPI Investigation and any subsequent court action.

The Inquiries Act 2013

The Inquires Act 2013 (the Act) is intended to reform and modernise the law relating to Royal commissions of inquiry, commissions of inquiry and non-statutory ministerial inquiries. Its purpose is to enable inquiries to be carried out more effectively, efficiently and fairly, while ensuring that those participating in an inquiry are adequately protected.

Under the new Act, there are three types of inquiries – Royal commissions, public inquiries and government inquiries. The key differences are in their manner of appointment and reporting. In summary:

  • Royal commissions: Royal commissions of inquiry are established under letters patent and are the highest level of public inquiry for matters of significant public concern. A recent example is the Royal Commission into the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy.
  • Public Inquiries: Public inquiries are established by the Governor General for the purpose of inquiring into complex matters of public importance, but are intended for matters that do not warrant a full Royal commission of inquiry. A reasonably recent example is the Commission of Inquiry into the Collapse of the Viewing Platform at Cave Creek
  • Government Inquiries: Government inquiries are the lowest tier of inquiry under the Inquiries Act and are intended to provide a more flexible form of statutory inquiry. They will likely be used by Ministers for less complex, discrete issues that require a relatively quicker but still authoritative answer. Government inquiries are established by, and report to, Ministers.

While inquiries required by Ministers are nothing new, ministerial inquiries have until now had no legal status and no statutory powers. There have been numerous ministerial inquiries over the years investigating issues ranging from Novopay, alleged misconduct of MPs, and the Auckland power crisis in 1998. Their lack of legal status has raised issues about the power to compel witnesses and obtain relevant evidence, as well as the confidentiality of information obtained and the privacy of witnesses.

Government inquiries will take the place of ministerial inquiries and will have the same powers to obtain evidence and summon witnesses as a Royal commission or a public inquiry. Participants in Government inquiries will also have the same immunities and privileges as if they were participating in a Royal commission or other public inquiry.

What this means for the Fonterra Inquiry

The Fonterra Inquiry is a Government inquiry. The Act was fast-tracked to enable the inquiry to be carried out quickly with powers and privileges to maximise efficiency and fact-finding ability. With these new powers and privileges, it is hoped that the Fonterra Inquiry will be better equipped to obtain and protect evidence and witnesses than recent ministerial inquiries such as the GCSB inquiry.

The Fonterra Inquiry will not inquire into or report on the MPI Investigation, questions of liability or the legislative structure of the New Zealand dairy industry. The MPI investigation is directly relevant to Fonterra and its public perception, criticism and potential liability, but the Fonterra Inquiry may also lead to changes in the legislative and regulatory framework and require improvements in operational practice.

Any recommendations that the Fonterra Inquiry makes could have far reaching implications for the food industry. All players in the industry need to be aware that there may be a tightening up of the regulations governing food safety standards and in particular product testing, traceability, risk management, reporting and contingency, and a potentially larger role for regulators.

To discuss the relevance of the Fonterra Inquiry and the new Inquiries Act to you, or for advice on public law matters, please contact a member of the Public Law team

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions