Fonterra defends products amid new Chinese contamination claims

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 12th August 2010

Fonterra has been forced to publicly defend the quality of its products amid allegations that Chinese customer and infant formula maker Synutra, whom Fonterra supplies, has sold milk powder that has caused premature breast development in three girls.

The New Zealand dairy giant yesterday confirmed it is a supplier to Synutra but said it “remains 100% confident about the quality of its products”.

According to reports, parents and doctors in Hubei have voiced fears that milk powder produced by Synutra has allegedly contained hormones that are claimed to have caused at least three infant girls to develop breasts.

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority added that it is working with Fonterra regarding the claims, but that hormonal growth promotants are not used on New Zealand milk-producing cows and there are strict government controls on their use.

Synutra, meanwhile, again denied the allegations, saying that there is no scientific evidence supporting the claims that its products are responsible for the problems suffered by the babies in Hubei.

“We are seeing many industry experts also speak out about the lack of scientific evidence between infant formula and these claims,” said Liang Zhang, Synutra CEO and chairman.

“The recent press conference by the Ministry of Health communicated that a definitive cause for premature development in the infant cases submitted could not be determined and that there are many possible contributing factors, which may cause premature development. These points are both positive for us and are in-line with our belief that Synutra products are safe and in no way related to these claims,” he added.

The claims echo a scandal in China two years ago, when six children died and thousands more became ill after milk was contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine.

Fonterra then held a 42% stake in Sanlu, the Chinese dairy company behind the contamination, but denied approving the use of melamine in the products that went on sale.
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