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August 13, 2013

NZ: Russia import ban on Fonterra widens to Belarus, Kazakhstan

Fonterra is meeting with officials in Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan after Moscow's ban on the company's imports in the wake of the botulism scare was widened to the former Soviet states.

By Dean Best

Fonterra is meeting with officials in Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan after Moscow’s ban on the company’s imports in the wake of the botulism scare was widened to the former Soviet states.

The New Zealand dairy giant has insisted none of the whey protein concentrate found to contain bacteria that could cause the disease was shipped to the three states.

Russia issued a temporary restriction on imports from Fonterra last week after news of the contamination emerged. Belarus and Kazakhstan, which have a customs union with Russia, followed suit yesterday (12 August).

However, Fonterra, which accounts for a quarter of New Zealand’s exports, has said none of the whey protein concentrate, nor products containing the contaminated ingredient, were sent to the countries.

“Fonterra primarily supplies butter and cheese to the Russian market and these are not made using whey protein concentrate,” Miles Hurrell, general manager for Fonterra in the Middle East, Africa and the CIS, said.

Fonterra said it and the New Zealand government had confirmed last week dairy exports from the country, such as whole and skim milk powders, as well as butter and cheese, were safe.

Hurrell added: “We are continuing to work closely with New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries to provide reassurances to customers, consumers and trade partners of the safety of New Zealand dairy products.”

Three batches of whey protein concentrate, produced in May 2012 at a Fonterra plant in New Zealand, contained clostridium botulinum. The ingredient is used in various products, including infant formula and body building powder.

The whey protein was shipped to customers in New Zealand and various international markets, including China, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia.

Customers including Danone, Abbott Laboratories and Coca-Cola Co. had to recall products. Some of the recalls were in China, a key market for Fonterra, which placed a partial restriction on imports from the company.

Meanwhile, Fonterra has had to recall infant formula on sale in Sri Lanka after the country’s government claimed the products contained agricultural chemical DCD. Fonterra has disputed the test results. 

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