Fonterra says sorry for 'anxiety'
Updated: 2013-08-06 07:35
By Wang Shanshan and Jiang Xueqing in Beijing, and Zhou Wenting in Shanghai (China Daily)
Sales of affected products have taken a beating, report Wang Shanshan and Jiang Xueqing in Beijing, and Zhou Wenting in Shanghai.
Fonterra Cooperative Group, the New Zealand-based company at the center of a milk powder safety scare, apologized on Monday and pledged that all the contaminated material would be brought under control within 48 hours.
"We really regret the distress and anxiety which this issue could have caused," said Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings at a media briefing in Beijing. "We totally understand there is concern by parents and other consumers around the world. Parents have the right to know that infant nutrition and other dairy products are harmless and safe."
Alarm bells started ringing on the weekend when Fonterra announced that tests conducted on July 31 had discovered the bacterium Clostridium botulinum in whey protein concentrate manufactured at its Hauptau plant in Waikato in May. Food manufacturers use the whey protein as a raw material in baby formula and sports drinks.
The bacterium can severely damage, and even destroy, the nervous system if ingested and can also trigger neural paralysis in infants under 12 months.
However, the name of one of the companies that used the contaminated whey protein in its infant nutrition products remains unknown after the New Zealand-based dairy giant declined to identify the manufacturer concerned.
Spierings said he was complying with the wishes of the company, which had requested not to be named. However, he insisted that the affected products are already under control.
"One of the customers asked us not to mention its name, but we are in contact with them," said Spierings, who wouldn't say whether the company is Chinese or based overseas.
Companies known to have used the contaminated whey protein include Dumex Baby Food Co, a subsidiary of Danone Group, China's largest beverage producer Hangzhou Wahaha Health Food Co and Hangzhou Wahaha Import and Export Co, and Coca-Cola Shanghai, which obtained the product from a local supplier, according to the China Food and Drug Administration.
"We are working closely with Danone in order to be fully transparent. Dumex has reported a total of 12 batches of products that may contain the bacteria. Half of the products are still in the warehouse, while the other half has been recalled," Spierings said.
More than 420 metric tons of Dumex baby formula produced with the tainted concentrate have been sold to consumers, according to the Shanghai Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision.