Here we go again.

After everything New Zealand's infant formula industry has been through over the past few years, the last thing it needed was yesterday's news of the 1080 threat.

Formula exporters are still recovering from the impact of Fonterra's 2013 botulism scare, which spooked consumers in China, the main market for product manufactured in this country.

And then there's the challenges posed by tough new Chinese import regulations that came into force last May and put many companies out of business.


New Zealand infant formula exports to China almost doubled to $200 million between 2012-2013, but are understood to have more than halved since then.

Let's be clear, the chances of the poison threat being carried out are extremely low.

As one exporter told me, you can't just waltz into a factory and pop a bit of 1080 in the formula.

But that isn't the point here.

What matters is how the threat is reported by the Chinese media and how consumers in the world's second-biggest economy react to the news.

During the botulism scare, China's state-run Xinhua news agency ran a scathing editorial that said this country had systemic food safety issues and our 100% Pure campaign was a "festering sore".

It remains to be seen how the state-controlled Chinese media will cover the 1080 threat.

The fact China has a stake in this country's formula industry, with a number of Chinese firms having established a presence here, might mean the issue gets played down.


Sensationalist Mandarin headlines about poison would certainly be unhelpful for an industry that's still struggling to get back on its feet.