New Zealand PM John Key Flies to China to Woo Consumers to Buy NZ-Made Products

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By Reissa Su | March 17, 2014 5:37 PM EST

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is set to meet with Chinese officials on March 17, hoping to restore China's confidence in New Zealand products after the botulism scare in 2013 which attracted international scrutiny.

REUTERS/NIGEL MARPLE
New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key smiles after the general election in Auckland November 26, 2011. REUTERS/NIGEL MARPLE

Mr Key will meet with China's leaders to discuss the findings of the inquiry into Fonterra's whey protein contamination incident which caused the recall of = millions worth of dairy products around the world, including in China.

In an interview, Mr Key hopes that his visit to China will help assure Chinese customers about the quality and safety of New Zealand products.  When Fonterra's botulism scare was first made known, the New Zealand prime minister had told Chinese officials that he would reveal all the information he had with Chinese consumers.

Mr Key said it is important in Chinese culture to pay respect and share information. Even if the findings indicate that there was no contamination, Mr Key feels the need for New Zealand to honour that commitment.

Previously, Fonterra, New Zealand's biggest exporter of baby formula, had admitted to four charges in which it failed to meet standards for animal products. Fonterra also acknowledged it did not inform officials soon enough about a possible contamination despite knowing there was a problem.

Food safety in New Zealand has been on the spotlight in 2014 after dairy giant Fonterra announced a recall of 8,700 bottles of fresh cream. Fonterra began a voluntary recall after quality tests revealed the possible contamination of E.Coli bacterium.

The Fonterra recall only covered its own Anchor brand and another supermarket brand in North Island. Although the bottles of cream believed to have E.Coli were distributed in New Zealand, the news of the recall had triggered memories of Fonterra's botulism scare in 2013.

The giant exporter of milk based in Auckland was at the center of an international storm over food safety issues since Fonterra announced a global recall of infant formula in Aug. 2013. Concentrated whey proteins in its baby formula were believed to contain bacteria linked to the deadly disease, botulism. China and Sri Lanka had temporarily banned some milk products from New Zealand after the news broke out. Due to the botulism scare that rocked the New Zealand dairy industry, the Fonterra Shareholders' Fund units fell to its lowest level in 2013. 

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(Photo: REUTERS/NIGEL MARPLE / )
New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key smiles after the general election in Auckland November 26, 2011. REUTERS/NIGEL MARPLE
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