Baby food firm to sue after disc disaster

TAMLYN STEWART
Last updated 05:00 28/03/2012

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Christchurch organic baby food manufacturer Green Monkey says it plans to sue packaging company Aperio Group, claiming a packaging fault forced it to recall more than a million dollars worth of stock from store shelves.

A small clear plastic disc about the size of a thumbnail was discovered inside a pouch of Green Monkey's super premium organic baby food by an Australian customer.

It was a potentially fatal choking hazard, Green Monkey managing director Charlotte Rebbeck said.

The company had to recall product from store shelves in New Zealand and overseas.

"The protection of our baby customers' safety was of paramount importance."

The small business was preparing to institute proceedings against Aperio this week.

Aperio, which operates in Australia and New Zealand, may soon be sold to global packaging giant Amcor pending Australian Competition and Consumer Commission approval due out later this month.

Rebbeck said Green Monkey, which outsources a lot of its work, had wanted to reach an out-of-court settlement with Aperio but the packaging company's lawyers had responded that as it was in the middle of a sales process it could not settle at a meeting or mediation.

Rebbeck said Green Monkey had been "left with no choice" but to file court proceedings.

It was really hard to put a figure on the damage to its brand, she said.

Green Monkey had won numerous awards for its baby food and food safety standards since it started about seven years ago, and its brand was built on trust and ethics.

Green Monkey had recalled a million dollars' worth of stock and also had to cover costs of air freighting and wasted raw materials.

Rebbeck said the business was millions of dollars out of pocket. The company also had to pay a penalty to overseas retailers for not having its product in stock.

It had managed to get back into overseas markets, which was unheard of, she said.

It had a "massive" fee to pay to Woolworths Australia for not being on shelves there.

Meanwhile Green Monkey has switched packaging suppliers. After vigorous testing it had selected Amcor as its supplier of the pre-printed pouches for its baby food, but Rebbeck said the pouches would be made at a different plant even if Amcor's purchase of Aperio goes ahead.

"Each pouch is scanned, metal detected, weighed, batch-tested.We only do batches of 3360 units per batch so we're ultra, ultra cautious with everything we do."

Normally a particular batch could be recalled but Aperio had not been able to guarantee that it had not happened in all the batches, which was why the company had had to do such a massive recall, she said.

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The pouches are manufactured overseas, but filled in New Zealand with 100 per cent New Zealand sourced organic food.

The organic baby food will be back on shelves next month.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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