China Halts Milk Powder Imports over Health Fears ; New Zealand Formula Banned after Fonterra Finds Bacteria in Tests

By Mullany, Gerry | International Herald Tribune, August 5, 2013 | Go to article overview

China Halts Milk Powder Imports over Health Fears ; New Zealand Formula Banned after Fonterra Finds Bacteria in Tests


Mullany, Gerry, International Herald Tribune


The dairy company Fonterra said that a harmful type of bacteria had been found in tests of ingredients it sells for use in infant formula in China and other markets.

One of the world's leading suppliers of dairy products says that a type of bacteria that could cause botulism has been found in tests of ingredients the company sells for use in infant formula and sports drinks, leading New Zealand officials to urge a recall and the Chinese authorities to stop all formula imports from that country.

China has halted imports of all New Zealand milk powder, New Zealand's trade minister said Sunday, Reuters reported. The dairy company, Fonterra, which is based in New Zealand, sells its milk products to other companies that make infant formula and said those companies would be responsible for any recalls. The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries said that in addition to New Zealand, six countries were affected: Australia, China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Even tiny amounts of the toxin can lead to severe poisoning.

"We are acting quickly," Theo Spierings, the chief executive of Fonterra, said in a news release Saturday. "Our focus is to get information out about potentially affected product as fast as possible so that it can be taken off supermarket shelves and, where it has already been purchased, can be returned."

For Fonterra, the recall could spell fresh trouble in China, a major market for New Zealand dairy products. The Chinese news media have given extensive attention to the latest contamination problem, and on Sunday the Chinese General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, which polices food safety, named four Chinese companies it said had imported a total of 228 metric tons of the potentially tainted products. "It is understood that these importers have already taken steps to track down and recall the products in question," the administration said on its Web site.

Particularly after a deadly scandal in 2008 over adulterated infant formula made in China, many Chinese parents have tended to buy imported formula if they can afford to. …

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