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Baby formula fears from Fonterra’s Chinese partner

Babies in China have been hospitalised with kidney stones after drinking a formula allegedly made by Sanlu Group, which is 43% owned by Fonterra.

Fonterra said the Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group dairy company is moving to ensure the Chinese company’s products are safe.

In China, the provincial public health bureau is investigating possible connections between Sanlu milk powder and the kidney stones.

However Sanlu has said the milk powder may have been a counterfeit of its product, noting that in 2004, 13 infants in Anhui province died of malnutrition and 171 others were hospitalised after consuming substandard milk powder, falsely labelled as being made by Sanlu.

“Sanlu is in active dialogue in China with relevant authorities to get to the bottom of these issues,” Fonterra representatives said.

“Sanlu has also advised us that they are taking all appropriate measures to ensure their products are safe for consumers.”

Sanlu had previously used milk of Chinese origin and milk powder from various parts of the world, but not from New Zealand.

“Very recently it has purchased New Zealand milk powder from Fonterra but we are 100% confident that there are no quality issues with that Fonterra milk powder,” the company said.

Fonterra last year set up a model dairy farm with 3000 cows to supply Sanlu, and said it was confident that “all milk coming out of Fonterra’s farm is safe.”

“Anything to do with potential food safety is taken very seriously by Fonterra and our people,” the company said.

“The appropriate authorities need to get to the bottom of this issue first.

“We are confident the Chinese authorities will act appropriately based on hard facts, and not speculation.”

Fonterra said its first priority was ensuring the welfare of consumers.

“Any food safety incident is taken very seriously because Fonterra’s reputation is based on high-quality product,” the company said. “It is far too early to understand how this incident might impact on any company”.

Fonterra has predicted that eventually China will account for 10% of its global dairy market. It paid NZ$150 million (AU$122 million) for its stake in the Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group dairy company in December 2005.

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