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NZ Govt, Fonterra should have gone public on milk

15 September 2008

NZ Govt, Fonterra should have gone public on milk powder

Questions must be answered as to why Fonterra remained silent when it learned last month that baby food its joint venture company was selling in China was contaminated with a poisonous substance melamine, the Green Party says.

Fonterra claims it has been pushing for a product recall since its discovery, but says this was blocked by Chinese local Government officials.

"But given that babies were being fed this product every day, Fonterra should have gone public as soon as it knew of this serious contamination - regardless of what officials were saying," Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"Instead Fonterra said nothing, during which time several more babies became sick. Fonterra should have bypassed local officials and demanded a recall at a national level.

"While I am pleased the New Zealand Government alerted Chinese officials straight away, I'm disappointed that they chose not to go public.

"It is vital when confronted with a food scandal such as this to be absolutely open and honest with the public, so that Chinese authorities could not continue to cover it up, and parents would have been warned much earlier.

"This tragic story shows the risks New Zealand companies face in trying to do business in a country where rule of law is used to control the population, not protect their basic rights," Ms Kedgley says.

"New Zealanders will be surprised and alarmed to learn some milk products sold on New Zealand supermarket shelves comes from China - but without any country of origin label.

"In the absence of any country of origin labelling, New Zealanders will logically assume - New Zealand being home to one of the world's largest dairy herds - they are buying New Zealand milk products," Ms Kedgley says.

"The Food Safety Authority is now checking Chinese milk products on sale in New Zealand, and the Green Party commends them on this pro-activity."


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