Counterfeit infant formula threat

19:03, Nov 13 2012
Tainted infant formula
At risk: Quality supervision bureau members in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, dump tainted infant formula at the height of the Chinese melamine scandal four years ago. Counterfeiting continues the risk of New Zealand being identified with contaminated formula.

Synlait says exporters of bogus Kiwi milk powder could seriously harm the New Zealand brand, Andrea Fox reports.

Kiwi dairy companies are calling for the Government and dairy industry to collaborate to tackle potentially serious New Zealand brand damage from a growing number of infant formula counterfeiters exporting into China.

But the Primary Industries Ministry says while it has rigorous standards and programmes that New Zealand companies exporting infant formula and milk powders must meet, it has no control over counterfeiting.

Canterbury dairy processor and exporter Synlait and Open Country Dairy, the country's second-biggest export processor after Fonterra, has told Fairfax it has become concerned this year at the "proliferation" of infant formula brand traders claiming New Zealand origins.

Fonterra, which controls 90 per cent of the country's raw milk supply and sells milk powder to New Zealand-based companies that blend and package dairy products for export, did not respond to questions.

An industry source said Fonterra once had a policy of not selling to domestic companies.


Demand for New Zealand milk powder has surged after the 2008 melamine infant formula poisoning scandal in China. New Zealand supermarkets now limit the number of cans of baby-milk powder that can be bought at one visit.

Synlait marketing manager Michael Wan said the activity of some infant formula exporters could erode New Zealand's brand image.

"New Zealand as a whole has an opportunity to look at what is going on. There is a debate to be had about the use of the claim ‘made in New Zealand'. There needs to be wider discussion in the New Zealand dairy industry on how to define what is ‘made in New Zealand'."

Wan said Synlait knew of at least 35 brands created that claimed to be manufactured in New Zealand. Some had no supply chain, using a third-party facility to blend and can ingredients.

He said the Primary Industries Ministry and dairy companies needed to be "first cabs off the rank" in addressing the issue.

Open Country chairman Laurie Margrain wants the problem discussed at the upcoming meeting of the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand.

"We think New Zealand is a brand. We must do more to protect the brand."

Meanwhile, the ministry said it was in formal contact with China's Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine over infant formula testing method differences after the Chinese agency in its latest quarterly report said it had rejected a 3-tonne consignment of infant formula after its trace element levels were considered to be inconsistent with Chinese requirements. The consignment had passed New Zealand requirements.

The ministry said the difference in test results was likely because of China's small sampling size. Fairfax NZ