China, Fonterra milk row escalates

China warns consumers, importers over products from NZ company.

China has stepped up warnings to consumers over a botulism scare involving products from a New Zealand dairy company, and has demanded affected importers check their sales records.

The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) said on Monday it was "warning consumers" following an alert over a bacteria that could lead to the potentially fatal illness.

Fonterra (FSF), one of New Zealand's biggest dairy exporters, said three batches of whey product - which is used to make infant formula and sports drinks - had been found to contain the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which can lead to botulism.

Quality inspectors in Shanghai have ordered baby formula firm Dumex, one of three Chinese companies said to have used the potentially tainted materials, to "track down its sales records", state media reported late on Sunday.

In a statement on its website, AQSIQ also called on the New Zealand government to "take effective measures" to ensure the safety of dairy products exported to China following the scare.

Dumex has produced 726 tonnes of its own milk powder products with the Fonterra materials and 420 tonnes have already been sold in China's domestic market, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing statistics from authorities.

The other two companies ordered by China's Food and Drug Administration to stop selling products containing questionable ingredients were Hangzhou Wahaha and Coca-Cola's Chinese subsidiary.

Wahaha said that it had used the Fonterra ingredients in soft drinks and had not detected any bacteria. "The products we made have sold out and we haven't found any food safety problems," it said in a statement.

Coca-Cola said in a statement it had used 25 kilograms of the affected powder for its Minute Maid drinks, but the "super high temperature" used in production meant it would be safe to consume, but the firm added that it was nevertheless recalling the affected products.

About 95 per cent of China's milk powder imports in January-March came from New Zealand, up by a third on the same period in 2012, a government website reported in April.

Demand for foreign supplies of baby formula has surged since 2008 when milk tainted with the chemical melamine left six children dead and more than 300,000 sick.

There have been no reports of any illness linked to consumption of the affected Fonterra product, which was made in May 2012, although the contamination was only confirmed last week.

InvestSMART FORUM: Come and meet the team

We're loading up the van and going on tour from April to June, with events on the NSW central & north coast, the QLD mid-north coast and in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. Come and meet the team and take home simple strategies that you can use to build an investment portfolio to weather any storm. Book your spot here.

Want access to our latest research and new buy ideas?

Start a free 15 day trial and gain access to our research, recommendations and market-beating model portfolios.

Sign up for free

Related Articles