June 1, 2011


New Zealand confirms safety probe into China milk powder



New Zealand confirmed that it was investigating the safety of a brand of infant milk powder reportedly being exported to China.


The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) issued a statement from Geoff Allen, MAF compliance and enforcement director on Heitiki infant formula, saying MAF had begun an investigation into Kiaora New Zealand International, which was "alleged to be selling and exporting Heitiki infant formula."


"MAF's investigation is firstly focusing on any food safety ramifications associated with Heitiki infant formula, and will react accordingly if any food safety issues are identified," said Allen.


"MAF will also examine other possible breaches of requirements such as labelling, advertising and claims, and where breaches are identified we will respond. Where any apparent breaches are identified of other legislation such as the Fair Trading Act, MAF will refer the matter to the appropriate authority."


Auckland-based Kiaora was apparently sending New Zealand-branded infant formula to China. The company, whose sole director was Tianxi Shao, said on its website that it specialised in quality infant and dairy products.


The website was "down for maintenance" on Tuesday (May 31), but a search by Xinhua showed the Heitiki brand milk powder was still being promoted on business-to-business website Alibaba, with inquiries directed to a "Sean Xu."


Heitiki tins are clearly branded as being from New Zealand, featuring a Maori woman on the label.


According to MAF, exporters of infant formula must be registered and manufacturers of formula in New Zealand must meet other requirements.


Kiaora was not on MAF's list of registered dairy exporters. Maori Party co-leader and Member of Parliament, Tariana Turia, has led calls for an investigation into the company after being initially alarmed at the association of food with a Maori cultural icon - "heitiki" is Maori carved jewellery. Further investigation showed the company had questions regarding food safety and compliance with consumer standards, Turia said.


The New Zealand Food and Grocery Council Monday has also called for a full investigation of the company by regulators.


Chief executive Katherine Rich issued a statement on Monday (May 30), saying the council was skeptical of the company's website claims when it was not sold on New Zealand shelves.


Heitiki prices - with some tins up to NZD169 (US$138) - were exorbitant when compared to similar products available in New Zealand supermarkets ranging in price from NZD18-NZD25 (US$15-US$20) a tin, she said.

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