Fonterra, the diary major at the centre of the C. botulinum scare concerning several batches of whey protein concentrate used to manufacture Nutricia’s Karicare infact formula, has confirmed that Chinese authorities have temporarily suspended the import of some diary powder products into the country.
The ban includes whey powder and dairy base powder - a whey based dairy ingredient used in the manufacture of infant formula - manufactured by Fonterra, or produced in Australia using Fonterra’s whey protein powder as an ingredient that includes whey protein concentrate.
China has also increased inspection and supervision at the border for New Zealand dairy products, and indicated extra testing may be required.
According to New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries, China has not closed the market to all New Zealand dairy products, as some reports have stated, and the suspension specifically concerns the Fonterra products involved in the scare.
“Whole milk powder and skim milk powder have not been suspended,” said Fonterra’s managing director for milk products in New Zealand, Gary Romano.
“We have been told that MPI is not aware of any additional market closures. It is, however, getting clarity on reports that Russia appears to have put a temporary ban on New Zealand dairy products.”
Fonterra is continuing to work closely with the ministry to manage food safety concerns in New Zealand and around the world.
“Our top priority is the safety of consumers, and working with customers and regulators to make sure the public is protected,” said Romano, adding that the co-operative would provide full co-operation to officials.
“We share the New Zealand Government’s objective of minimising any damage to New Zealand’s economy and reputation by restoring market confidence in New Zealand dairy products as soon as possible. We are fully committed to allaying current concerns as quickly and effectively as we can.”
It has also been widely reported that Russia has banned the import of all New Zealand dairy products, even though the country did not received any of the affected good.
On Monday, the MPI’s acting director-general, Scott Gallacher, tentatively indicated to reporters that such measures had been taken by Moscow, saying: “We do face some market closures. Russia, for example, appears to have put a temporary ban on all New Zealand dairy products." However, he added that the ministry was seeking more details from its Russian counterparts.
But today, the Kiwi government quashed speculation on Russia’s stance. "Russia has not taken any action against whey or otherwise," trade minister Tim Groser told media on this morning.
"We were told 'they're banning everything'... But we've been told this morning that is not a correct interpretation of their actions, and so far, nothing has been done. It's not a ban at all."
Meanwhile, Vietnam, one of the countries in receipt of items in the contaminated batch, yesterday ordered an immediate recall of Fonterra milk powder. Abbott Laboratories, which received quantities of the product from Fonterra, will conduct the recall and report back to the Vietnam Foodstuff Safety Department by Friday, Reuters reported.