Baby-milk exporter fights for business

DEIDRE MUSSEN
Last updated 05:00 17/10/2012

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A Chinese exporter embroiled in a dispute over recalled New Zealand-made baby milk formula in Hong Kong claims he has been unfairly treated.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise's trade commissioner for Hong Kong, Kevin Parish, called for a swift resolution of the issue to protect "New Zealand's premium dairy image".

On September 4, Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety announced a recall of Wisdom Dairy Ltd's 0-6 month infant formula because of low iodine levels, which put babies' health at risk. Wisdom Dairy director Yan Zhao had contracted an unnamed New Zealand baby-formula manufacturer since 2010 to make and export the formula under the Wisdom Dairy brand to Hong Kong and China.

Zhao, who is in China, told The Press by phone yesterday that subsequent tests in New Zealand proved the recalled batch had safe iodine levels.

However, the company's chance of overturning the recall was dire because the Companies Office planned to strike off the New Zealand-registered company for supplying false details.

Last month, a tipoff prompted an investigation into Wisdom Dairy, which showed it used bogus information on the Companies Register.

Zhao, a New Zealand resident for eight years, claimed the false information was to prevent Chinese competitors from searching the Companies Office website to find out about his company.

He said he added three fake shareholders to make the company seem larger and used false addresses for him plus the company, acknowledging it was illegal to do so.

"While I made a mistake, I had no choice."

Residents living at the false addresses on the West Coast and Central Otago voiced concerns on Monday over a random company stealing their details.

Yan had begged the Companies Office to delay striking Wisdom Dairy off until he had sorted out the recall.

The Primary Industries Ministry confirmed yesterday that New Zealand tests of the recalled batch showed it fully complied with New Zealand and Hong Kong requirements.

Chief assurance strategy officer Bill Jolly said the centre's sample in Hong Kong was small and analysis of a larger sample showed the milk ensured babies got the required daily iodine levels.

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- The Press

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