Consumers Warned As Poison Threat To New Zealand Infant Formula Made Public

Last update: 10/03/2015

WELLINGTON, March 10 (Bernama) -- New Zealand food safety officials are advising consumers to check infant formula packaging for tampering after an anonymous threat to poison the products.

Police revealed the threat on Tuesday four months after it was made to farming and dairy company leaders ahead of the perpetrator's warning that they would go public if their demands were not met, Xinhua news agency reports.

Police said letters were sent to the Federated Farmers industry group and the Fonterra dairy cooperative in November last year.

They were accompanied by small packages of milk powder that subsequently tested positive for the presence of a concentrated form of the poison 1080.

The letters threatened to contaminate infant and other formula with 1080 unless New Zealand stopped using 1080 for pest control by the end of March 2015.

"While there is a possibility that this threat is a hoax, we must treat the threat seriously and a priority investigation is underway," Deputy Commissioner (National Operations) Mike Clement said in a statement.

Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings said the criminal threat targeted New Zealand and the entire dairy industry.

Fonterra had worked with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the country's food safety regulator, to establish a validated testing regime that was being used by the dairy industry for both raw milk and dairy products targeted by the threat.

"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," said Spierings.

Sodium monofluoroacetate, known as 1080, is a poison used as a pest control to protect New Zealand's native flora and fauna against introduced pests such as possums and ferrets.

Its use has been controversial over the years with opponents saying it also poisons native animals and contaminates the environment.