Eco-n suspension a blow to Ravensdown

Richard Christie

Richard Christie: “With no detection permissible, there’s a trade risk if anything is detected in the milk.”

Ravensdown is usually on full show at Lincoln farming events but last Thursday it was fronting up in a different way, explaining its position after suspending sales of its nitrogen inhibitor. Tim Fulton reports. 

ECO-N was introduced to the market on Lincoln University’s dairy research farm in February 2004, Ravensdown’s Richard Christie reminded farmers at the same spot on Thursday.

In fact, Lincoln had been a vital part in the process of development of the product, Christie said.

The trouble was a lack of regulatory approval for minute traces of eco-n’s active ingredient, DCD, found last year in New Zealand milk powder.

Ravensdown announced on January 24 it was stopping eco-n sales because of the discovery.

Christie, Ravensdown’s general manager of strategic development, said doing this had come as quite a blow, given the amount the company and the government had invested in the product.

It was particularly unfortunate for Ravensdown that was no international Codex standard for it.

He suspected the situation arose because DCD was a widely known and tested chemical, whereas newer compounds had been routinely classified under the Codex system.

Being off that list was problematic.

“With no Codex standard, that means there is no detection permissible in some countries around the world,” he said.

“So that really leads us into a technicality. With no detection permissible, there’s a trade risk if anything is detected in the milk.”

Back-grounding the breach, Christie said the nitrogen content of the DCD had led to it being classified as a “potential adulterant to milk if it was added indirectly”.

The United States Food and Drug Authority had reacted by putting DCD on a list of chemicals it could scan for at low detection levels, down to two parts per billion.

Despite it being detectable, DCD was safe, biodegradable and didn’t leave residue in the soil, Christie said.

The latter characteristic explained why eco-n had to be applied in autumn and spring in order to do its job in winter.

For that reason there was no food safety concern, he said.

“To give you some perspective on safety, LD50 is a kind of terminology used to rank the safety of food and chemicals, and DCD sits there as 10 times safer than table salt and has a similar LD50 to sugar.

“It certainly cannot be described as toxic.”

The most likely avenue for resolving DCD’s Codex problem was the World Health Organisation, Christie said.

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