On 27 November 2014, the Chief Executives' of Fonterra and Federated Farmers received anonymous letters from someone threatening to release New Zealand infant formula, and other formula, contaminated with traces of 1080 poison, into the market unless use of 1080 in New Zealand stopped. The letters were accompanied by a plastic bag that contained a sample of infant formula contaminated with 1080.
Irrespective of whether or not the threat was carried out, it was considered to have the potential for significantly adverse consequences on consumer health, the economy and New Zealand’s international reputation. The National Security System was immediately activated.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) became the lead government agency with Police leading the criminal investigation. MPI led a comprehensive, cross-government and industry response to the threat. MPI, other government agencies, dairy manufacturers and retailers, implemented comprehensive safety and vigilance measures to ensure the safety of consumers in New Zealand and overseas. The response included leadership by the Chief Executive DPMC and the Prime Minister.
A public announcement regarding the threat was made on 10 March 2015. The initial media conference was jointly fronted by the New Zealand Police, the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Health. The Prime Minister, accompanied by the Ministers for Primary Industries and Food Safety, spoke to the media later the same afternoon. New Zealand Police arrested and charged an individual in October 2015.
Following the conclusion of the National Security System activation, an independent case study was commissioned to consider the effectiveness of the response and identify important lessons.
This case study underlined the value of the National Security System in the response, and identified the following key considerations in managing a crisis:
- Close coordination and collaboration of agencies;
- Strategic awareness and appreciation of national interest;
- Maintaining political, public and media confidence in the response;
- Involving non-government stakeholders;
- Communicating risk.
For more information on Operation Concord visit the MPI website.