31 May 2011

MAF clears baby formula brand

6:44 pm on 31 May 2011

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has cleared a baby formula manufacturer of concerns about food safety and export regulations.

The Food and Grocery Council and Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia complained about the Heitiki formula.

It was marketed by Kiaora New Zealand International and had a Maori woman for a logo and a picture of a marae in a field.

MAF said on Tuesday afternoon that no food safety issues have been identified with Heitiki milk powder and it is made in New Zealand according to legal requirements.

However, it says it is still investigating the labelling and marketing of the formula to see if it is inaccurate or misleading.

MAF compliance director Geoff Allen told Checkpoint the formula's contracted manufacturer is up to standard.

"Now we're moving to look at some of the claims and advertising labelling that has been made, particularly on the website. One of the claims that was made on the website was that it was being sold in New Zealand - and that's patently not the case."

The company said it meets all export regulations but is sorry to have caused cultural offence with the branding and will remove the Maori references.

Mr Allen said a MAF investigator has visited the company and its only listed director, Tianxi Shao, to investigate its activities.

Food council complaint

The Food and Grocery Council said the product was designed to look like it is on New Zealand shelves but data showed not a single tin had been sold in supermarkets in this country or Australia.

Chief executive Katherine Rich said New Zealand is seen as a high-quality source of food and that reputation needed to be protected.

Ms Rich said the production of infant formula is not for amateurs and opportunists, and companies like Fonterra, Bayer, Nutricia and Nestle spend billions of dollars on research and development.

Formula exporters have to be registered with MAF and need to meet other requirements to be make their product in New Zealand.