March 12, 2015
China on alert over threat to safety of New Zealand milk
China said it would increase inspection of milk powder imports from New Zealand following reports of a threat to contaminate infant formula manufactured in that country.
The Chinese General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in a statement posted on its website late Tuesday (March 10), that China, the largest importer of New Zealand dairy products, "has already taken steps and will demand each batch of milk powder imported from New Zealand has an official New Zealand certificate that it does not contain 1080," referring to the name of the pesticide, which is used in agriculture to kill rats and possums.
Already, Chinese demand for New Zealand infant formula has fallen and the New Zealand dollar has fallen to a six-week low following the announcement of the threat, according to news reports.
Concerned New Zealand authorities revealed on Tuesday that an unidentified blackmailer had threatened to contaminate baby formula made in the country with 1080 pesticide to protest its use, in a letter each sent to the Federated Farmers of New Zealand and Fonterra, the world's largest exporter of dairy products and New Zealand's biggest company, in November. Together with the letter was a package containing baby formula tainted with a concentrated form of 1080, which is used to control pests including rats and possums.
The government's revelation was prompted by increasing media enquiries and the blackmailer's threat to go public by the end of March.
New China requirement
The Chinese inspection and quarantine administration said importers are now required to provide test reports showing New Zealand milk powder products are free from the contaminant. Dealers should also ensure that all packaging is intact. It added there had been no cases of poisoning reported within China so far.
Seeing the impact of the announcement of the threat, the New Zealand government said late Wednesday it had made it illegal for one to possess high purity 1080 without the appropriate approval, a measure that it said would make it easier to track the distribution and use of the poison.
No less than New Zealand Prime Minister John Key made the assurance that infant formula manufactured in his country remained safe.
"We are advised it is extremely unlikely anyone could deliberately contaminate formula during the manufacturing process and there is no evidence that this has ever occurred. While it is very likely this threat is a hoax, we as the government have to take it seriously and I can assure you that we are", he said.