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Your milk is safe, Gerry Byrne tells consumers

The minister in charge of the dairy industry has a message for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador: your milk is safe.

"There is absolutely no human health, no food safety risk in Newfoundland and Labrador," Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne told CBC News Friday afternoon.

Byrne also said there are efforts underway to release more information about milk quality, just days after his department insisted that all briefing materials and correspondence on the topic must stay secret.

"At this point in time, I think it's in the public interest to get this information out," Byrne said.

On Thursday, CBC News reported that the province refused access-to-information requests about milk quality, because doing so would harm the government's financial interests, and also harm the business interests of a third party.

Byrne said his department is now working with the province's information commissioner to release the records his department classified as secret earlier this week.

Testing issues identified

Byrne said there have been concerns expressed about how samples are tested for things like antibiotics, which aren't permitted in milk that ends up in your store.

"There were certain deficiencies that were found in the processes, in just how that's monitored, which are currently being corrected, and it's very important we do so," he noted.

"But there is absolutely no human health concern here, whatsoever."

Byrne said there were some discrepancies as to whether the testing was actually producing results that were true and verifiable.

"When milk travels 800 kilometres to go from producer to processor, in that time gap, there are sometimes some issues there," Byrne said.

"Whether or not the samples — not the milk itself that's destined for human consumption, but the samples that are taken and tested — whether or not they are held in storage, whether or not they are kept with integrity, so the result that actually comes from the test, is actually a true indicator of what the quality of the milk truly is. That's really what this is all about."

In an email to CBC News earlier this week, the Dairy Farmers of Newfoundland and Labrador also referenced testing for antibiotics.

The industry group noted that all milk arriving at a processing plant is tested.

If a load is found to be positive for antibiotics, the milk is destroyed and is never processed into finished products.