An industry group is continuing to defend itself against accusations that it damaged this country's lucrative reputation for safe dairy products during a visit to a trade show in China this month.

Six firms belonging to the New Zealand Infant Formula Exporters Association, which was formed late last year, travelled to Beijing's Mother and Baby Expo and hosted a media event attended by Chinese journalists.

Subsequent coverage in China's print media stated that the only "genuine" Kiwi formula brands were those belonging to members of the association. The group does not represent the entire industry.

Important players in the sector, including Canterbury dairy processor Synlait, expressed concern in the Business Herald last week that this country's reputation for safe dairy products had been damaged by the articles, while the Ministry of Primary Industries also took steps to set the record straight, releasing assurance letters stating that the group did not speak for the Government or represent the main infant formula manufacturers.


The association's chief administration officer, Chris Claridge, said the media coverage had been a "gross misrepresentation of what the association said and did in Beijing".

But a television story broadcast on China's CNTV shows Claridge saying, in English: "Our association publishes a list [of members] on our website so Chinese consumers can easily tell what is a real New Zealand infant formula and what isn't a real New Zealand infant formula."

Guy Wills, general manger of Auckland-based New Image, which manufactures and exports infant formula to China, said the statement undermined the legitimacy of formula exports.

Claridge, however, said the sound bite did not include "clarifications".