An email to suppliers from Fonterra chair John Wilson tells us that police are investigating a criminal threat to contaminate infant and other formula in an apparent protest over the use of 1080 poison in pest control.
- The Police say that even though there is a possibility that the threat is not genuine, they are treating it seriously and have a full investigation underway.
- The threat is not specific to Fonterra or our brands.
- It is a criminal threat designed to cause fear to generate a political outcome.
- We can assure customers and consumers that our own testing programmes confirm our products are secure and free of 1080.
- We are confident the right testing and security measures are in place to protect the quality and safety of our products.
We fully support the action being taken by the NZ Police and Government.
The Ministry for Primary Industry gives the background:
Fonterra and Federated Farmers received anonymous letters in late 2014. These letters were accompanied by packages of powder, which tested positive for 1080. Police were alerted immediately.
The letters contained a threat to release infant and other formula contaminated with 1080 to consumers. This contamination was to occur unless New Zealand stopped using 1080 for pest control by late March. The person or people making this threat say they intend to run an international media campaign to publicise their threat and pressure the government to stop using 1080. . .
The media release says:
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is working closely with Police to respond to a criminal threat to contaminate infant and other formula in an apparent protest over the use of 1080 in pest control.
MPI Deputy Director-General Scott Gallacher says the Government’s first priority is protecting the health and wellbeing of consumers.
“We are confident that New Zealand infant and other formula is just as safe today as it was before this threat was made. People should keep using it as they always have,” Mr Gallacher said.
“People should feel equally confident about using imported infant formula which has to meet New Zealand’s strict food safety requirements and is equally secure in the retail chain.
“The ability for anybody to deliberately contaminate infant and other formula during manufacturing is extremely low. Regardless, we encourage people to be vigilant when buying infant and other formula. Our advice is always to check packaging for signs of tampering. We are reinforcing that advice as a result of this blackmail threat.
“New Zealand’s food safety model is among the best in the world. New Zealand manufacturers maintain high levels of security as a normal routine. Security and vigilance has been significantly increased since this threat was received.”
Since the threat was made, the Ministry for Primary Industries – with the support of multiple government agencies, manufacturers and retailers – has put additional measures in place to further protect infant formula products, including:
- strengthened security measures in retail stores
- enhanced milk and milk product testing, including a new 1080 testing programme
- increased vigilance by all relevant players in the supply chain
- extra physical security at manufacturing premises
- an audit programme to confirm dairy processing facilities continue to maintain the highest level of security and vigilance.
“The combined MPI and industry testing programmes confirm there is no 1080 in infant and other formula. We have tested just over 40,000 raw milk and product samples and we have had no 1080 detections,” he says.
“This criminal threat is designed to cause fear in order to generate a political outcome. It is using food as a vehicle but should not undermine confidence in our world-class food safety system or in any manufacturer.
“This type of threat does occur from time to time internationally. We are fortunate that this is the first such threat in New Zealand, and that New Zealand has one of the world’s strongest and most secure food safety systems,” he says.
People with any relevant information should contact Police immediately on 0800 723 665 or email@example.com. Information can also be provided anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 11.
Visit www.foodprotection.govt.nz for more advice on how to check packaging for signs of tampering, and for information about government’s response to the threat.
This could be a hoax but Fonterra, MPI and the police are taking it very seriously as they should.
However, some markets whose politicians and media aren’t as open as ours might not understand that it is a potential threat.
Ministers for Primary Industries Nathan Guy, Food Safety Jo Goodhew and Trade Tim Groser recognise this and are doing their best to allay concerns trading partners might have:
The Government is taking a criminal threat to contaminate food products very seriously, and is reassuring parents that our infant and other formulas are safe and that extra testing and security measures have been implemented as a further safeguard.
The New Zealand Police and the Ministry of Primary Industries announced today they have been working with a range of agencies to assess and respond to a threat to contaminate infant and other milk formula products in an apparent protest over the use of 1080 pest control.
“We would like to reassure New Zealanders that every step possible has and is being taken to respond to this threat and ensure the ongoing safety of our food products,” says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, Trade Minister Tim Groser, and Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew.
“While the police have advised the risk is low, we are taking this very seriously. Since the threat was received last November, the Police have been actively investigating, while the Ministry of Primary Industries and other government agencies have been working closely with industry players across the supply chain to insure that all New Zealanders can have the upmost confidence in these products,” says Mr Guy.
“Every resource has been made available and we have treated this as a top priority. Ministers have taken expert advice on how to respond to a threat of this type and made considered decisions.
“The Government’s first priority is the safety of our food for consumers, both here and overseas. We are highly confident our products are safe and new increased dairy product testing gives even greater assurance.
“It’s hugely disappointing that someone would try to damage New Zealand’s strong reputation for top quality products and processes.”
Mr Groser says New Zealand officials have informed authorities in our major markets about this criminal threat and our measures in response.
Mrs Goodhew says New Zealand has a world class food safety system which has been further reinforced by recent improvements.
“We now have a comprehensive new 1080 testing regime for dairy products that gives us a high degree of confidence. MPI has also analysed the supply chain in detail and worked with manufacturers to put in place additional security measures,” she says.
“This new testing is on top of our normal thorough testing, auditing and verification system. It is extremely unlikely that anybody could deliberately contaminate formula during manufacturing, and there is no evidence of this ever having occurred.
“In addition, we have worked with retailers to address any risk to food products at the retail end of the chain.
“The advice to consumers is not to consume any food product that appears to be have been tampered with, and report it to the Ministry for Primary Industries immediately.
“Any signs of tampering are easy to spot. Detailed information on how to check products and further information is available at www.foodprotection.govt.nz.”
If parents or caregivers have any concerns they can contact Plunketline 0800 933 922 or Healthline 0800 611 116.