New Zealand treating 1080 infant formula contamination threat as 'live': MPI

By Mark ASTLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

New Zealand treating 1080 infant formula contamination threat as 'live': MPI
New Zealand is treating the sodium monofluoroacetate (1080) infant formula contamination threat - detailed in blackmail letters to Fonterra and Federated Farmers - as "live."

In a statement sent to DairyReporter.com, a spokesperson for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said New Zealand Police “has determined that the risk of release of contaminated powder is low.”

op_concord_envelope
The 1080 blackmail letter addressed to Fonterra CEO, Theo Spierings.

“Nevertheless, the New Zealand government [is] still treating this as a live threat and current measures will remain in place for a period of time," ​it said.

“What this period of time will be is still being worked through with manufacturers and retailers.”

Fonterra and Federated Farmers received letters in November 2014 containing a threat to contaminate infant formula with 1080 unless New Zealand ended its use of the pest control poison by the end of March.

New Zealand Police announced it was investigating the threat on March 10. 

Samples of milk powder sent with the letters tested positive for 1080, the salt form of a toxin found in several plants.

Pellets of 1080 are applied aerially in New Zealand to kill pests such as possums, a marsupial that's been blamed for the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

"Lines of enquiry"

On March 18, New Zealand Police announced it was testing several tins of infant formula following calls about packaging damage.

All the infant formula tested by New Zealand came back negative for 1020, it announced the next day. 

There has been no official update from New Zealand Police or the New Zealand Government Food Protection website - set up in response to the 1080 criminal blackmail threat - since March 19.

The investigation, dubbed Operation Concord, is, however, "ongoing"​ and continues to "pursue a range of lines of enquiry,"​ New Zealand Police told DairyReporter.com.

“Up to 35 staff depending on requirements are involved with the investigation which remains fully focussed on identifying the person or persons responsible for the threat,”​ said the New Zealand Police statement.

“Police will not be discussing any particular individuals or areas of the country which are relevant to the investigation. We continue to urge the public to be vigilant and report anything suspicious, and we continue to appeal for anyone with information relevant to the enquiry to contact Police.”

"Trade continues to flow"

The Chinese General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) announced on March 11 it was strengthening the "inspection and supervision" of milk powder imports from New Zealand. 

Reports emerged the same day that a shipment of New Zealand infant formula had been stopped at the Chinese border.

Dismissing the reports, MPI said its counterparts in China had “indicated that they’re unaware of any consignments that have been stopped at the border as a result of this criminal blackmail threat.”

In its update, MPI said: “There have been no adverse reactions from any of our trading partners and trade continues to flow as normal.”

"The New Zealand government continues to work with trading partners to ensure ongoing market access,"​ said the MPI spokesperson.

"Feedback so far is that our trading partners have been appreciative of teh New Zealand government's approach, which is focused on the implementation of additional measures to protect consumers both in New Zealand and overseas."

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