China has halted the import of all New Zealand milk powder after bacteria that can cause botulism was found in some dairy products, New Zealand’s trade minister has said.
Global dairy trade giant Fonterra said on Saturday it had sold contaminated New Zealand-made whey protein concentrate to eight customers in Australia, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Saudi Arabia for use in a range of products, including infant milk powder.
“The authorities in China, in my opinion absolutely appropriately, have stopped all imports of New Zealand milk powders from Australia and New Zealand,” NZ trade minister Tim Groser told TVNZ on Sunday.
“It’s better to do blanket protection for your people and then wind it back when we, our authorities, are in a position to give them the confidence and advice that they need before doing that,” he said.
Most of China’s dairy imports come from New Zealand, which relies on dairy for 25 percent of its exports.
China’s move comes after NZ authorities on Friday recalled up to 1,000 tons of dairy products across seven countries.
One New Zealand company removed five batches of infant formula. Fonterra said it had advised eight of its corporate customers that a strain of clostridium was found in three batches of whey powder, which can be used in sports drinks and formula. It advised them to start a product recall if necessary.
The New Zealand dairy giant is a big supplier of wholesale milk powder to Chinese dairy firms and supplies multinational food and beverage companies.
Fonterra said there had been no reports of any illness linked to the affected whey protein, and that fresh milk, yoghurt, cheese, spreads and UHT milk products were not affected.
“Our focus is to get information out about potentially affected product as fast as possible so that it can be taken off supermarket shelves, and where it has already been purchased, can be returned,” Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings said in a written statement.