22 Sep 2008

China milk scandal may change testing - farming leader

3:55 pm on 22 September 2008

The tainted milk scandal in China is likely to change that country's milk testing standards, says Federated Farmers dairy section chairman Frank Brenmuhl.

Panicked parents in China have crowded hospitals and demanded redress since officials and the Sanlu Group, 43% owned by Fonterra, said last week that babies were sick with kidney stones and complications after drinking toxic milk powder.

A Chinese provincial governor has reportedly said Sanlu has known for some time the industrial chemical melamine was being added to its milk.

Mr Brenmuhl says the scandal could bring about huge changes in the Chinese dairy industry.

He expects milk will be tested in future at several points along its journey to the factory for a wide range of possible contaminants, and Fonterra could play a big part in those changes.

However, he says he would like to see Fonterra be more forthcoming about what it is doing in the wake of the scandal.

Fonterra says it will, in due course, reveal plans to help the families who have been affected.

Fonterra monitors staff safety in China

Fonterra says it is monitoring the safety of its staff in China as the tainted milk scandal there continues to unfold.

Local reaction to the scandal has ranged from anxiety to resignation and it is now boiling over into anger.

Fonterra says the safety of its staff is always a top priority. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says there have been no special arrangments to ensure the safety of Fonterra staff.

It says if Fonterra employees have concerns, the local consulate office will offer its standard levels of help and advice.

China market 'too big to ignore'

Despite the scandal, there is a strong feeling New Zealand companies must continue to deal in the Chinese market.

Eleven thousand New Zealand dairy farmers own Fonterra and Mr Brenmuhl says the company has no choice but to stay the course.

"I don't necessarily have doubts about them being in China and actually staying in the business - it's too big a country to ignore," he said.

"We cannot go round and pick and choose the way that we would want to and we cannot expect that New Zealand standards always apply overseas."