The melamine minutes

19:35, Apr 01 2009

Fonterra says it has minutes from phone calls with SanLu that prove it told the Chinese dairy company the only acceptable level of melamine in its products was zero.

"The ongoing handling of this crisis was phone call after phone call after phone call," chief executive Andrew Ferrier said. "And we kept minutes of all these phone calls."

However, the cooperative would not make the minutes public while there was a possibility that SanLu chairwoman Tian Wenhua might appeal against her life sentence.

Fonterra owned 43 per cent of SanLu the Chinese dairy company at the heart of the melamine-in-milk scandal that resulted in the deaths of six Chinese infants. Tian was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Chinese court last week while two of the owners of independent milk collection stations that put the melamine into the milk received death sentences.

During the trial it was revealed that one of the Fonterra directors on SanLu's board gave Tian a document stating the European Union's permitted levels of melamine in food.

Mr Ferrier said a number of documents were given to SanLu.

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"In those early days we were all trying to find out what melamine was and what did it do to people's health."

At no point did Fonterra say to SanLu it was permissible to sell products with melamine.

"At the time that these documents were passed over, our director made it very clear to SanLu that the only acceptable level of melamine was zero. We were shocked and disturbed to hear that those managers had agreed to sell product that had any melamine in it whatsoever. We had no knowledge that they had made that decision and had no knowledge that SanLu was selling product that had any melamine in it."

Mr Ferrier would not say which of the three Fonterra directors on SanLu's board New Zealander Bob Major, Mark Wilson of Britain and Chinese national Patrick Kwok had given the document to Tian.

"We won't disclose which director in the interests of the safety of that individual," he said.

The three directors were questioned by police but did not give evidence at the trial.

The Dominion Post