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Food Security

Fonterra CEO claims all tainted dairy stocks contained

The CEO of New Zealand dairy company Fonterra, Theo Spierings, has said the risk of contracting botulism from the firm’s tainted infant formula has ended. The news comes as more trouble is brewing for the milk giant.

A Sri Lankan shop keeper picks a Fonterra product, which is still displayed for sale in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. Fonterra, the world's largest dairy exporter, announced Saturday that hundreds of tons of infant formula, sports drinks and other products sold in seven countries could be tainted. On Tuesday, Sri Lanka’s health ministry said it had ordered all milk products imported from New Zealand be stopped at ports and the withdrawal of products with whey protein from supermarkets as a precaution after reports of contamination that could cause botulism. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Fonterra Milchpulver

All supplies of potentially contaminated infant formula had been removed from international markets, and there was almost no more risk for consumers, Theo Spierings, Chief Executive of New Zealand dairy company Fonterra, said Wednesday.

Speaking at a news conference in Auckland, New Zealand, Spierings said that 18 tons of tainted whey protein concentrate had been turned into 2,300 tons of infant formula. The baby food had now been successfully contained in warehouses or recalled, he added.

"I apologize for the discomfort and anxiety and distress this has caused," he also said.

China halts imports over tainted formula

New Zealand's Fonterra, which is one of the world's largest dairy producers, announced Saturday that tons of infant formula, sport drinks and other products sold in seven countries could be tainted. Tests had found bacteria in whey protein concentrate that can cause botulism – a potentially fatal food poisoning.

At the news conference, Spierings also said that he had just returned from China – Fonterra's biggest market which had stopped importing whey-based dairy products from New Zealand.

Noting that the situation there was stable, Spierings said that he had vowed earlier not to leave China before markets, consumers and customers could feel safe again.

Asked if he would resign over Fonterra's handling of the scare, Spierings added: "It's not up to me to answer, that's up to the board."

Fonterra price-fixing

Meanwhile, Fonterra, as well as another five international dairy producers, have been fined a total of $100 million (75 million euros) for fixing prices of dairy in the Chinese market.

On Wednesday, China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) fined Fonterra 4 million yuan ($653,000), Dutch dairy cooperative FrieslandCampina 48 million yuan and Abbott Laboratories 77 million yuan.

Penalties were even higher for Hong Kong-listed Biostime with 162 million yuan, French food group Danone was fined 172 million yuan and US dairy giant MeadJohnson was fined 203 million yuan.

In a statement, NDRC said the fines were imposed as the companies were found guilty of restricting competition, setting curbs on minimum prices for distributors and for using a variety of methods to disrupt market order.

“We believe the investigation leaves us with a much clearer understanding of expectations around implementing pricing policies,” Fonterra's Greater China and India President Kelvin Wickham said in a statement.

uhe/mz (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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