5 August 2013, 12:43

Russia imposes ban on New Zealand dairy products

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Russia has become the second country, after China, to block imports of milk powder and other dairy products made by New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra. The decision was made following the giant’s last Saturday's announcement that up to 1,000 tons of its products, including infant formula and sports drinks, sold in seven countries could be tainted with bacteria causing botulism.

In Russia the ban on Fonterra’s products became effective on August 3, when Russia’s Chief Sanitary Inspector Gennadiy Onishchenko informed the press that a corresponding order had been issued to authorize withdrawal and ban of realization of the company’s products in the Russian market.

However, the official added they had not yet received any notices about what types of products had been infected.

Onishchenko said now that Fonterra’s products were still in the market, Russian consumers, and parents of children in particular, should be very cautious about dairy products they were buying.

Russia was the second country to impose the ban. Earlier China had blocked the entry of the giant’s products to the country after major companies importing Fonterra products had been instructed to "immediately stop selling and to recall all food products" made with questionable material.

Dairy production is a major part of New Zealand economy, with China to be its biggest export market. New Zealand's government has already informed 60 officials were assigned to work on the botulism scare.

In Russia Fonterra is the second largest exporter of milk powder. The company holds up to 20 percent of the product’s market share.

Fonterra apologises over milk scare, denies cover-up: CEO

New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra apologised Monday for a botulism scare that saw product recalls in China but denied accusations by Prime Minister John Key that it had delayed releasing information.

"We deeply apologise to the people who have been affected," CEO Theo Spierings said at a news conference in Beijing, insisting that the company had informed customers and the authorities within 24 hours of confirming the problem.

The whey product involved is used to make infant formula and soft drinks, and had been contaminated with a bacteria that can cause botulism. China is the world's biggest market for formula.

"We totally understand the concern among parents. They have a right to know that food is safe," Spierings said, adding that Fonterra planned to "test anything that leaves New Zealand as a precautionary measure".

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key had earlier accused the company of a "staggering" delay in revealing the contamination.

"I'm a bit staggered" that tests had shown "something" in May 2012, when the batch was produced, "but clearly not something that was of concern to the company because they allowed it to go out," Key told Radio New Zealand.

"You would have thought that for a business where its top business is essentially based around consumer confidence, food safety and the quality of its products, that they are risks that you wouldn't take," Key added.

But Spierings said the first signs of a problem only emerged after tests in March this year.

Further tests were required to identify "the root cause and the exact strain" of bacteria involved, he said.

China stops imports of milk powder from New Zealand

China has blocked all imports of milk powder from New Zealand, a New Zealand minister said Sunday, after bacteria that can lead to botulism was found in some dairy products.

Trade Minister Tim Groser said the ban was "entirely appropriate", after global dairy giant Fonterra said some exported whey products including infant formula may contain bacteria that could lead to the potentially fatal illness.

China has not officially announced an import ban.In Beijing, the Food and Drug Administration said it had met officials from three companies importing Fonterra products and instructed them to "immediately stop selling and to recall all food products" made with questionable material.

New Zealand: dairy giant issues global botulism alert

New Zealand authorities have triggered a global recall of up to 1,000 tons of dairy products across seven countries after dairy giant Fonterra announced tests had turned up a type of bacteria that could cause botulism.

New Zealand's Ministry of Primary Industries said Saturday that the tainted products include infant formula, sports drinks, protein drinks and other beverages.

The government said the contaminated whey protein concentrate, or products using this ingredient, had been exported to Australia, China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Dairy giant Fonterra, which manufactured the product more than a year ago, said eight customers had been advised and were investigating whether any of the affected product was in their supply chains.

If necessary, contaminated consumer products would be recalled, the company said in a statement.

There have been no reports of any illness linked to consumption of the affected whey protein.

Fonterra is the world's fourth-largest dairy company, with annual revenues of about $16 billion.The news comes as a blow to New Zealand's dairy industry, which powers the country's economy.

New Zealand exports about 95 percent of its milk. Consumers in China and elsewhere are willing to pay a big premium for New Zealand infant formula because the country has a clean and healthy reputation.

Chinese consumers have a special interest after tainted local milk formula killed six babies in 2008.

Three batches of whey protein concentrate manufactured in May last year recently tested positive for Clostridium botulinum.

The batches have been used to form 870 tonnes of products sold in a variety of markets, the Ministry for Primary Industries' Acting Director General Scott Gallacher said.

The symptoms of botulism include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, followed by paralysis, and it can be fatal if not treated.

Voice of Russia, Newsru.com, Foxnews, AFP

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