NZ farmers head apologizes to China for dairy scare

Updated: 2013-08-08 13:57


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WELLINGTON -- The head of New Zealand's farming industry gave an unconditional apology to Chinese consumers for the fears raised over contaminated produce from dairy giant Fonterra, and praised the Chinese government's reaction to the crisis.

Federated Farmers of New Zealand President Bruce Wills said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua that his members understood how the product recall by farmer-owned cooperative Fonterra had been " a bolt out of the blue for our Chinese consumers."

"Perhaps the one missing word has been 'sorry.' On behalf of New Zealand's farmers who supply Fonterra, we would like to apologize to our Chinese consumers for any concern this recall has caused," said Wills.

"The Chinese government is doing absolutely the right thing by its people. It is rightly asking hard, searching questions of Fonterra and of New Zealand's food assurance systems," he said.

"Those same questions are being asked here in New Zealand too. We work hard to produce some of the highest quality food products on earth. Integrity and reputation are everything to us farmers."

Wills said the news that bacterium linked to the potentially fatal disease, botulism, had contaminated whey product had been " an equally unpleasant surprise for New Zealanders too."

"Fonterra is a cooperatively owned company. That means the farmers who supply Fonterra jointly own it and entrust it to turn their cow's milk into high quality products for people the world over to enjoy," he said.

"If we can take some positives from the recall, it was as a direct result of Fonterra's own testing. While we know the angst it has caused, the recall is limited to just one product line and was also precautionary in its nature," said Wills.

"What this means is that some 2,499,962 tons of Fonterra product is safe."

Wills said he had another message for Chinese consumers: "All of the products produced by New Zealand's other dairy processors are safe and unaffected by Fonterra's precautionary recall of this one product line."

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