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Govt must explain 25 day delay in taking action

19 September 2008

Govt must explain 25 day delay in taking action

The Government must explain to New Zealanders why there was 25 day delay before it took any action to warn the Chinese Government that SanLu infant formula was contaminated.

"The Prime Minister claims she acted promptly on information she received and blew the whistle to top Chinese Government officials," Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"While we welcome the fact that the Prime Minister contacted Chinese authorities, as we believe Fonterra should have done a month earlier, we cannot understand why the Government did not act immediately when its embassy was informed on August 14.

"The Green Party calls on the Government to explain why its embassy sat on the information for 17 days before informing authorities in New Zealand, and then why the Government failed to act for a further eight days before it informed Chinese officials. What happened between August 14 and September 8?

"The Green Party is also puzzled that Fonterra refuses to comment on allegations that the contamination scandal was hushed up because of sensitivities around the Olympic Games in Beijing.

"Fonterra needs to publicly assure New Zealanders that their decision to remain silent in the face of the unfolding infant formula scandal was not in anyway linked to a desire by Chinese officials to not tarnish the image of the games.

"It has been reported that Chinese media were issued instructions not to report on a number of issues, including food safety scares during the Olympics. Chinese authorities have denied this, but an English translation of the edict, reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, included the direction that 'All food safety issues, such as cancer-causing mineral water, is off-limits'.

"We strongly support the call of paediatric surgeon Brendon Bowkett that Fonterra should offer medical support to Chinese authorities including sending New Zealand doctors or supporting the transfer of the babies to other countries for treatment if this is required."


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