Fonterra is obligated to condemn the execution of two people involved in the San Lu milk powder scandal, Amnesty International says.
But Fonterra said the executions were a matter for the Chinese Authorities. A spokesman distanced the company from the now bankrupt San Lu [which it had a 43% stake in].
The human rights group has called on Fonterra, as a company closely associated with the damaging scandal, and the New Zealand Government to raise concerns about the executions with Chinese officials.
Zhang Yujun and Geng JinPing were reportedly put to death yesterday for endangering public safety and producing and selling toxic food.
At least six children died and more than 300,000 were ill after consuming the toxic infant formula – tainted with the industrial chemical melamine, which can cause kidney stones and kidney failure.
Amnesty New Zealand spokesperson Margaret Taylor said New Zealand had long been an opponent of the death penalty.
“As a New Zealand company operating in China, Fonterra has an obligation to uphold the values of New Zealand through the way it conducts itself,” she said.
“Not only must it speak out against the executions, following a scandal it was so closely associated with, but it must also use its ongoing engagement with China to work on improving human rights and particularly labour rights.”
The case highlighted the link between trade and human rights, she said.
Fonterra said it did not work for San Lu and the melamine was introduced to the supply of 21 companies, of which Fonterra was one.
Beibei infant formula, produced by Fonterra's Chinese joint venture, Sanlu Group, contained the highest levels of melamine, at 2563mg/kg (parts per million), found in the scandal.
Tainted samples were found among another 21 suppliers but the concentrations ranged from only 0.09ppm to 619ppm
Amnesty is also concerned about the imprisonment of parents whose children fell ill or died.