NZ dairies in damage limitation mode

NZ dairies in damage limitation mode

The New Zealand dairy industry has moved to reassure customers New Zealand infant formula products are safe after poison threats were made. 

The National Farmers Federation and Fonterra were sent small packages of baby formula containing poison and anonymous letters. According to the New Zealand government, the threat is an "apparent protest" over the government's use of the chemical 1080, sodium fluoroacetate, in pest control. 

Fonterra stressed the "criminal threat" targeted "New Zealand and the entire dairy industry". The authorities assessed the likelihood of the threat being carried out as "extremely low", the dairy giant added. 
 
Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings said today (10 March): "We can fully assure our customers and consumers that all of our milk and products are safe and of high quality, and our supply chain continues to be secure and world-class.... We have taken immediate and decisive steps to give our customers and consumers added confidence – including increased testing and security measures."

The Ministry for Primary Industries, alongside dairy companies, have established validated testing regime that is being used by the dairy industry for both raw milk and dairy products targeted by the threat. In addition, Fonterra is testing all raw milk it processes and all paediatric products and nutritional base powders that it manufactures, the company stressed. 

Meanwhile, other dairy players such as Synlait Milk moved to increase security and reassure customers. Synlait MD Dr. John Penno said: "We have full end to end supply chain control from farm to container for all milk powder and infant formula products. This includes quality testing of raw milk and comprehensive testing of finished product before it is loaded in shipping containers for export."

New Zealand relies on dairy for about a quarter of its total export earnings and dairy products account for 7% of the country's GDP. The dairy sector and government are moving to limit the impact of the threat, with an eye on export markets such as China where food safety is a major issue. 

The poisoning threat is the second food safety scare to hit the country in two years. Export markets, including China, closed in 2013 after Fonterra's botulism contamination warning which, it transpired, was a false alarm.