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Current as of 29/12/14 06:00AM NZST

Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Key promises probe into Fonterra

Govt steps up pressure on dairy giant to tell all it knows in a bid for damage control.

Prime Minister John Key says there will be a probe into Fonterra as the Government increases pressure on the dairy giant to front up with all of the information it has to try to limit the international damage from potentially contaminated whey powder.

Mr Key said it was likely two inquiries would result from the issue, including one into Fonterra. "They will need to answer some questions around the length of time it took for all of us to know, the processes it went through from when it first identified there could be an issue to when it was brought into the public domain, to their general approach to the issue."

He said the second inquiry was likely to be into how food safety regime and systems had responded.

Mr Key refused to give a view on Fonterra's performance, saying he wanted Fonterra to focus on ensuring it provided all the information required for public safety in New Zealand and overseas.

But he made it clear he was dissatisfied with its response.

He said the full extent of possible contamination was still unknown, and the information Fonterra was giving kept changing, making it clear more products were potentially affected than originally thought. "Until we get that information, the situation remains fluid and we are unable to give New Zealanders or or trading partners absolute certainty."

He did not believe the company was deliberately withholding information but it would have to justify its decisions.

In other developments as the Government moved to contain the fallout yesterday, Ministry for Primary Industries officials were sent in to work in Fonterra headquarters to try to get clear information, and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce met Fonterra bosses yesterday, the second meeting in two days.

Trade Minister Tim Groser said several countries were considering import bans. China had so far taken a "measured response" by suspending imports only of products made using Fonterra whey powder.

He said Australia had been caught up, but had responded carefully.

Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings said the five-month gap between traces of an often harmless bacteria being found in whey powder and the public notification of a botulism risk was unavoidable.

Extensive testing was done to determine the bacteria type, because there were more than 100 strains of clostridium and not all were safety risks.

The eight customers
Here is the latest on the eight companies supplied the potentially contaminated WPC80:

Danone
French parent company of infant formula producers Nutricia New Zealand and Dumex China.
In New Zealand: 67,875 cans of Nutricia's Karicare Infant Formula Stage 1 (0-6 months) with batch numbers 3169 and 3170 (use by 17/06/2016 and 18/06/2016) and Karicare Gold+ Follow On Formula Stage 2 (6-12 months) with batch number D3183 (use by 31/12/2014).
In China: Seven batches of affected WPC80 were reportedly purchased. Of that, 105.45 tonnes were used for baby formula and authorities were tracing products for recall.

NZAgbiz
Subsidiary of Fonterra recalled 65 tonnes of affected products sold to North Island retailers and customers: Ancalf calf milk replacer with batch numbers JX24 X6494 to JX24 X6509 and JX26 X6542 to JX26 X6573 and Brown Bag calf milk replacer with batch numbers IX21-B0974, IX21-B0975, IX21-B0979, IX21-B0983

Vitaco Health Group
New Zealand-based health and lifestyle company said its Aussie Bodies Ultra High Temperature range of sports supplement drinks contained the WPC80. However, the UHT manufacturing process is regarded as a sterilisation process and the products were safe.

Coca-Cola Greater China
Bought 4.8 tonnes of affected WPC80 and used 25kg in the production of Minute Maid Pulpy Milky drink. UHT manufacturing processes teamed with low acidity were believed to sanitise the final product, but affected batches were being traced for recall.

Maxim International
The Australian livestock feed company believed all affected product was contained.

Hangzhou Wahaha
Imported 14.5 tonnes of affected WPC80 for its dairy products. The Chinese firm said products hit shelves in October 2012 and although temperature treatment meant there was no risk, it was working to recall unsold items.

Abbott Laboratories
The Vietnam Foodstuff Department said products derived from Fonterra had been contained. Similac Gain Plus infant formula produced by the same company had been recalled in Saudi Arabia.

An unnamed company from an unnamed country said it had also contained an affected product.

- additional reporting APNZ

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

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