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New Zealand Company Apologizes to China for Tainted Milk

Customers talk to a sales assistant as they shop for milk powder in front of shelves displaying imported baby products at a supermarket in Beijing, August 5, 2013.
New Zealand's dairy giant Fonterra has apologized for a botulism scare that forced product recalls in China.

However, CEO Theo Spierings told a news conference in China Monday that there had been no delay and no cover-up in announcing the discovery of botulism bacteria in whey that is used in some of its products.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key had earlier Monday accused the company of a "staggering" delay in revealing the contamination.

Spierings said that confirmation of the problem had been received on July 31 and the message was sent out to customers and the government 24 hours later. He called the problem an isolated incident.

China is particularly sensitive to food contamination after hundreds of babies were sickened in 2008 by milk that a Chinese company tainted with the chemical melamine.

The product from the New Zealand company is also exported to several other countries. Russia has announced it will stop importing some dairy products from Fonterra.