News / Asia

Fonterra Under Fire Over Milk Scare; Product Recalls Continue

Fonterra logo photographed near the Fonterra Te Rapa plant near Hamilton, New Zealand, Aug. 6, 2013.
Fonterra logo photographed near the Fonterra Te Rapa plant near Hamilton, New Zealand, Aug. 6, 2013.
Reuters
Fonterra — the world's largest dairy exporter — came under fire from the New Zealand government, farmers and financial regulators for its handling of a food contamination scare that has triggered product recalls and spooked parents from China to Saudi Arabia.

The government sent officials to Fonterra premises to ensure a clearer message and to regain international confidence after New Zealand's biggest company was criticized for dragging its feet in saying it sold whey protein products that contained a bacteria that could cause botulism — a potentially fatal food poisoning.

“We will be conducting an internal review and this will be subject to external scrutiny as well,” said Gary Romano, Fonterra's managing director of New Zealand Milk Products.

The country's agricultural lobby urged Fonterra to be open with parents of infants about details of the contamination. “There will be a reckoning, but now is not the time; the 'who, what, why, when, where and how' questions come later,” Federated Farmers Dairy Chairman Willy Leferink said in a statement. “Right now, we owe it to our consumers here and abroad to give them facts and not speculation.”

New Zealand's Financial Markets Authority said it was concerned about how long it took Fonterra to disclose the contamination issue. The company said it confirmed on July 31 that this was caused by a dirty pipe at one of its New Zealand plants, before issuing a media statement early on Saturday, three days later, and in an announcement to investors on Monday.

There have been no reports of illness resulting from the affected products, but the scare risks tainting New Zealand's “clean and green” image.

Finance Minister Bill English said the economy was likely to escape any significant damage as a result of the Fonterra scare, but there was some longer-term risk to the country's reputation.

“The economic impact of the amount of product currently under restrictions is sufficiently small [that] it wouldn't have a discernible impact on our GDP,” English said in reply to a question in parliament.

More recalls

On Monday, Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings said the company did not face a ban on its products in China, only restrictions on whey protein concentrate. He said he expected the curbs would be lifted this week as soon as Fonterra provides Chinese regulators with a detailed explanation of what went wrong.

China, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and other countries, however, have issued fresh instant formula milk product recalls, and the New Zealand government warned that China could extend restrictions on whey protein powder to other dairy products.

“So far, [there has been] very limited action. But this is likely to change, and it would change in the direction of wider, not narrower,” Trade Minister Tim Groser told reporters.

Fonterra is a major supplier of bulk milk powder products used in infant formula in China, but doesn't sell in China under its own brandname after local dairy company Sanlu, in which it held a large stake, was found to have added melamine — often used in plastics — to bulk up formulas in 2008. Six babies died then and thousands were taken ill.

China's consumer quality body said it ordered a recall of two batches of milk formula brands marketed by Abbott Laboratories, a day after some of the U.S. healthcare company's products were recalled in Vietnam. Abbot said the move was a precautionary measure after some of its milk formula brands, which did not contain whey protein concentrate sourced from Fonterra, were packaged in the Fonterra facility.

Cow & Gate recalled 80,000 cans of one type of its stage-three baby formula in Hong Kong and Macau. It said there were no signs of contamination in any of the products sold in the two regions. More infant formula tins were cleared from New Zealand supermarkets after Nutricia, part of French food group Danone that makes the Karicare brand, announced a blanket ban Monday on two of its infant products.

Sri Lanka suspended milk powder imports from New Zealand, while Brunei media cited its government as ordering a recall and the ban on the import, distribution and sale of Fonterra food products. Fonterra has not identified either of those countries as having been affected by the safety issue, though it has said products containing the contaminated whey protein had been sold on to Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.

Dairy auction

At its fortnightly Global Dairy Trade auction, the world's biggest wholesale marketplace for milk powders and dairy products — most of which originate in New Zealand — prices fell for the first time in 6 weeks, while volumes jumped. Fonterra's GDT Price Index dropped 2.4 percent, following a 5.3 percent rise at the previous sale.

Ahead of the auction, analysts had said the event could help gage the likely impact of the contamination scare on prices and sentiment toward New Zealand dairy products, which command a premium over rivals. In the event, the drop in prices was less than the five to 10 percent that some analysts had predicted.

Dairy exports earn about a quarter of New Zealand's NZ$46 billion annual export earnings.

Units in Fonterra's Shareholders Fund, which offer outside investors exposure to the cooperative's farmer shareholder dividends, closed up 1.3 percent on Tuesday at NZ$6.95, erasing most of the previous day's losses.

“If Fonterra gets knocked as far as confidence is concerned, then the farmer gets knocked, because at the end of the day Fonterra is the farmer,” said William Stolte, a farmer in Masterton on New Zealand's North Island.

“And the farmer has to accept that... meanwhile, we have to keep milking the cows,” he said.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid