Claire Trevett

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

Key's Paris milk scare talks

Nutricia's parent company is eyeing legal action.
Nutricia's parent company is eyeing legal action.

Prime Minister John Key met the French parent company of infant milk brand Nutricia to discuss the Fonterra botulism scare while he was in Paris this week.

Danone - a major multinational French dairy and water company - is considering legal action against Fonterra over the botulism drama, later discovered to be a false alarm.

Executives from the French company met Mr Key in Paris during a reception at the New Zealand Embassy.

The scare has also put Mr Key into damage control over New Zealand's international reputation, including a likely visit to China towards the end of the year after two Government-ordered investigations into it are completed.

In Paris, the group slipped quietly into one of the embassy's conference rooms for about 20 minutes.

Mr Key confirmed it was to discuss the Fonterra issue. "They asked for a meeting, I gave them an assurance we are going to run a thorough investigation and that in the end all the information will be in the public domain."

Asked if Danone had voiced frustration, Mr Key said: "I think they have commercial issues they are having to consider. But, as we pointed out to them, any commercial matters are a matter for them and Fonterra."

The Prime Minister has previously said Nutricia, and anyone else considering legal action over the contamination scare, should wait until inquiries into the incident are completed.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is investigating the scare and a separate ministerial inquiry is also under way.

Nutricia - which had to recall 67,000 tins of baby formula as a precaution last month - confirmed it was considering seeking compensation or pursuing legal action against Fonterra or the testing agency AgResearch.

A spokeswoman for Nutricia yesterday said the company was still considering its legal options, while a Fonterra spokesman had no comment other than the co-operative was "continuing to work and talk with all our customers".

- Additional reporting: Adam Bennett

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf01 at 22 Nov 2014 16:09:45 Processing Time: 414ms