Sunday, July 3, 2022

Fonterra crisis: Product was Aussie-made, exporters say

New Zealand-based infant milk exporters doing $100 million of business in China say all future orders and contracts are “on pause” because of the Fonterra whey contamination.

At least 22 home-grown brands are at risk, the NZ Infant Formula Exporters Association spokesman Chris Claridge says.

Formula-makers were likely to lose shelf space and struggle to maintain contracts if the reputation of NZ products sagged further, Claridge, who is also managing director of Carrickmore Nutrition, said.

The association’s members sell about six million cans to the hot China market annually, compared to about 2m cans in New Zealand.

No existing export orders had been cancelled but there could be trouble in a month or so as shelf space disappeared and exporters struggled to renew supply contracts, he said.

The trade group was aggrieved to learn the whey identified in Nutricia’s recalled Karicare formula was shipped from NZ to one of Fonterra’s Australian plants before being returned for final processing and canning.

Fonterra sent blighted 25kg bags of whey protein concentrate to blend milk formula at its Darnum Park plant in eastern Victoria.

The site confirmed the presence of clostridium bacteria in semi-finished product that was later blended into Karicare formula at Nutricia’s site at Mt Wellington, Auckland

Claridge said the infant formula association had argued for the past couple of years a brand created like this wasn’t a true product of NZ.

As the affected Karicare formula had essentially been made in Australia it was surprising the country’s regulators hadn’t issued their own recall notice, he said.

In a subsequent general statement Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) said it had a high level of confidence in the safety of Australian-made dairy products.

DAFF reassured its trading partners about the integrity of Australian-made goods and that the two batches of NZ whey protein concentrate sent to Australia had been accurately traced, identified and removed from the production system.

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