New Zealand reassures importers on product safety after botulism scare

Aug. 6, 2013 at 5:09 PM

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- New Zealand's prime minister offered safety assurances after exports of dairy products to nearby countries were blocked in a botulism contamination scare.

Exported baby formula and other dairy products made by New Zealand's Fonterra dairy company were found to contain proteins that could cause botulism, China's Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday.

"We have received mixed messages from Russia and are working with Russian authorities," Prime Minister John Key said of the contamination issue, which has alarmed importers and shaken the New Zealand dairy industry. "China has suspended imports of Fonterra's whey powder and dairy base powder from New Zealand and Australia."

An apology Monday from Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings was prominent in Chinese newspapers, New Zealand radio Newstalk ZB reported. China is Fonterra's largest market.

The radio station reported a reluctance to buy Fonterra products in China and noted Chinese newspapers continued to attack the company, suggesting it had not acted responsibly and has much for which to answer.

Key issued a statement saying the Ministry for Primary Industries moved swiftly to investigate the incident once it learned about the contamination. No sicknesses have been reported.

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