China wants rapid results from Fonterra inquiries

12:00 pm on 10 August 2013

The Chinese Embassy in Wellington says not enough has yet been done about the Fonterra food safety scare to reassure consumers in its country.

China has suspended imports of all products containing Fonterra's whey protein concentrate, after a batch was found to be contaminated with a bacterium that can cause botulism.

Fonterra says it has tracked down all the affected products, and separate investigations will be conducted by its board and the Ministry for Primary Industries. There may be another investigation at a ministerial level.

The economic and commercial counsellor for the embassy, Zhang Fan, says consumers and officials in China are waiting to see the results of those inquiries.

He says it is important they are carried out in a timely and transparent manner if consumer confidence is to be restored. "Certainly that involves efforts by a lot of employees, maybe sometimes round-the-clock efforts."

Fonterra revealed on 3 August that 38 tonnes of its whey protein used by other manufacturers, including makers of infant formula, was contaminated with a bacteria that can cause botulism. The whey protein was tainted by a dirty pipe at the company's Hautapu processing plant in Waikato in May 2012.

Product recalls have been ordered in nine countries, including New Zealand, China and Thailand. Russian media on Thursday continued to report that it had placed an import ban on all Fonterra dairy products, although that was denied by government officials in New Zealand.

Market analyst Arthur Lim says the controversy has severely dented New Zealand's clean and green reputation in China.

Tourism Export Council president Martin Horgan agrees New Zealand's reputation has been damaged but says visitor numbers from China are still strong and he does not believe the number of tourists from the country will be affected.

Mr Horgan said Chinese partners are telling his organisation they think the controversy will blow over reasonably quickly. He says people travelling to New Zealand from China are generally not parents of young children.