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China Bans All New Zealand Milk Powder Imports On Botulism Scare

posted 4 Aug 2013, 04:24 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 4 Aug 2013, 04:24 ]

China stops importing milk powder from New Zealand after Fonterra, the country's biggest company, found bacteria which can cause botulism in some of its dairy products.

CAMBRIDGE, NEW ZEALAND (FILE) ( TVNZ) -  China has halted the import of all New Zealand milk powder after bacteria that can cause botulism was found in some dairy products, New Zealand's trade minister said on Sunday (August 4).

Global dairy trade giant Fonterra said on Saturday (August 3) it had sold contaminated New Zealand-made whey protein concentrate to eight customers inAustraliaChinaMalaysiaVietnamThailand and Saudi Arabia for use in a range of products, including infant milk powder.

"The authorities in China, in my opinion absolutely appropriately, have stopped all imports of New Zealand milk powders from Australia and New Zealand," New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser told Television New Zealand on Sunday.

"It's better to do blanket protection for your people and then wind it back when we, our authorities, are in a position to give them the confidence and advice that they need before doing that," he said.

Fonterra told reporters at a news conference in AucklandNew Zealand on Sunday that it manufactures 2.5 million tonnes of product a year and found 38 tonnes of contaminated product in May of 2012.

Tests at the time were cleared so it was sold to eight customers. Tests on a sample from the same batch showed high levels of a bacteria which is usually harmless in March this year, local media reported. Further tests off that product detected Clostridium Botulinum.

"Right until the very end this was a surprise for us and our technical staff," said Gary Romano, managing director of milk products at Fronterra.

Most of China's dairy imports come from New Zealand, which relies on dairy for 25 percent of its exports.

It is the second dairy contamination issue involving New Zealand's largest company this year. In January, Fonterra said it had found traces of dicyandiamide, a potentially toxic chemical used in fertiliser, in some of its products.

The announcement comes as Fonterra is planning to launch its own brand of milk formula in China, five years after its involvement in a 2008 scandal in which melamine-tainted infant formula killed at least six and made thousands ill.

Officials from the China Food and Drug Administration met with representatives of three Chinese companies - Hangzhou Wahaha Health Food Co.Coke Cola China, and Shanghai-based Dumex Baby Food Co., Ltd. - that may have imported the tainted whey protein concentrate from Fonterra.

"You must ascertain the true situation, analyse the causes, and take swift measures to halt sale and recall all food that contains the problem material," said vice ministerLiu Peizhi.

Some of China's biggest food and beverage companies are said to be customers ofFonterra, using its milk powder as an ingredient in everything from confectionery to cheese on frozen pizza.