China blocks tainted milk product imports from New Zealand

CINA_-_Latte_polvere2Bacteria that could cause botulism in children were found in milk products made by Fonterra, the world’s biggest dairy exporter. Although unofficial, China’s ban has led New Zealand Trade Minister to offer every assistance possible.Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China has halted all milk product imports from New Zealand after several major drinks and baby formula companies were found to have used products contaminated with bacteria that could cause botulism, a dangerous illness that can be fatal in 24 hours. The products were manufactured by Fonterra, the world’s biggest dairy exporter.

China’s unofficial ban was termed an appropriate stand by New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser before deliveries can resume. China itself has been plagued by food scandals.

China is the largest importer of dairy products from New Zealand, with 80 per cent of its imported milk powder coming from the South Pacific nation.

For his part, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key accused Fonterra of a “staggering” delay in revealing the contamination.

Tainted whey was in fact exported recently to countries like Australia, China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Only Hanoi decided to recall all the products on the market in order to destroy them, whilst the Russian government ordered a stop to imports and advised its citizens to throw away products from New Zealand already purchased.

Mr Key said he was concerned at the impact on farm-reliant New Zealand’s reputation as a supplier of “clean, green” dairy products, particularly in Asia, where its infant formula has long been regarded as the gold standard.

“I’m a bit staggered that in May of 2012, when this whey was produced, that it (Fonterra) did show something in its testing, but clearly not something that was of concern to the company because they allowed it to go out,” Mr Key said.

“You would have thought that for a business where its top business is essentially based around consumer confidence, food safety and the quality of its products, that they are risks that you wouldn’t take,” he added.

In China, some observers noted that the ban would not have a significant effect on the mainland’s dairy industry, as similar products could be imported from Europe.

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