WELLINGTON Aug 19 New Zealand on Monday
announced plans for a government inquiry into how ingredients
made by dairy giant Fonterra became contaminated with a
botulism-causing bacteria, as the country tries to salvage its
reputation as an exporter of safe agricultural products.
The inquiry, to be held alongside two internal Fonterra
investigations and another by the country's
agricultural regulator, will examine how the potentially
contaminated products entered the international market and
whether adequate regulatory practices were in place to deal with
"This will provide the answers needed to the questions that
have been raised about this incident, both domestically and
internationally," said Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy,
who is leading the inquiry along with Food Safety Minister Nikki
"It is also an important step in reassuring our trading
partners that we take these issues seriously," he said in a
The contamination announced earlier this month has led to
product recalls in countries from China to Saudi Arabia.
Fonterra, the world's largest dairy exporter, has come under
attack at home and abroad for dragging its feet in disclosing
the discovery of the bacteria.
Fonterra Chief Executive Theo Spierings welcomed the
inquiry, saying in the statement that the company would provide
all necessary information.
The inquiry will be expected to provide an interim report in
around three months.
New Zealand depends on the dairy industry for a quarter of
its total exports. China is a major export market for New
Zealand's dairy products.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully is visiting Beijing
this week in to smooth relations with the country's biggest milk
powder customer, and Prime Minister John Key has said he plans
to visit China later this year to discuss the contamination
issue after the inquiry results are complete.