China's ban on NZ milk powder "entirely appropriate" - Groser

“We don't want Fonterra worrying about their long-term reputation or risks right now. We want everybody focused on the health of the little babies,” Trade Minister says.

Trade minister Tim Groser told TV One’s Q+A programme that the situation with Fonterra was “very serious”.

China has suspended imports of NZ milk powders after Fonterra revealed three batches of whey product, which is used to make infant formulas and sports drinks, have been found to contain the toxic bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism.

The move was followed by Russia putting a blanket ban on all Fonterra products according to some media reports - but Media reports that Russia had banned all kiwi dairy products were at this stage "unconfirmed," said Gary Romano, the general manager for Fonterra subsidiary NZ Milk Products, who has fronted all media appearainces since the crisis broke on Saturday morning.

“How serious it is depends obviously on a) the extent of the problem and b) how long it lasts. The authorities in China, in my opinion absolutely appropriately, have stopped all imports of New Zealand milk powders from Australia and New Zealand,” Mr Groser told political editor Corin Dann.

“It’s entirely appropriate they should have done that. So it’s better to do blanket protection for your people and then wind it back when we – our authorities – are in a position to give them the confidence and advice that they need before doing that. So we’re working extremely closely with the Chinese and other authorities. The trade issues are not just about China,” he added.

Mr Groser says he will head to China “at the drop of a hat” if he receives advice that political contact is useful. At the moment, he says he’s focused on dealing with the immediate problem of the wellbeing of users of the products.

“There are some very important questions in our minds about the process that led up to that, including that. But, look, that’s tomorrow’s problem. Today our sole concern is on the health of infants and other users of these products, both our own and in the countries’ that we’re exporting to. So it’s not that we don’t think there's some very important questions, but we’re focusing on the essential problem of today.

“We don’t want Fonterra worrying about their long-term reputation or risks right now. We want everybody focused on the health of the little babies.”

Watch the full interview here.

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