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New Zealand launches probe into dubious infant formula bound for China

05-30-2011 14:36 BJT

WELLINGTON, May 30 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is investigating an Auckland company that is apparently sending New Zealand-branded infant formula to China, the New Zealand Press Association (NZPA) reported Monday.

Heitiki was promoted by Kiaora New Zealand International, which had a registered office in Auckland, said the report.

On its website it said that it specialized in quality infant and dairy products, said the NZPA report.

Heitiki tins are clearly branded as being from New Zealand, featuring a Maori woman on the label and stating the formula was " for super gene", although it was not clear where the products were made, said the report.

Kiaora's sole director was Tianxi Shao, but the company was not answering calls, said the report.

MAF director of compliance Geoff Allen told NZPA the ministry was visiting Kiaora's premises Monday.

If it was exporting infant formula, it would have to be a registered exporter and if it was manufacturing formula in New Zealand it would have to meet further requirements, he said.

Kiaora was not on MAF's list of registered dairy exporters and its website went offline Monday afternoon.

Maori Party co-leader and Member of Parliament Tariana Turia last week said she was initially alarmed at the association of food with a Maori cultural icon -- "heitiki" is Maori carved jewellery -- but that further investigation had made her question the product itself.

"Upon further investigation it appears there may be other reasons to question areas such as food safety, or compliance with consumer quality standards," Turia said.

The New Zealand Food and Grocery Council Monday backed her queries, and called for a full investigation by regulators.

Chief executive Katherine Rich told NZPA infant formula was a very important export and the council was skeptical of the company 's website claims when it was not sold on New Zealand shelves.

"Authorities certainly need to keep a close eye on start-up infant formula companies, particularly those marketing into China, which might attempt to trade on New Zealand's positive image," said Rich.

"Just recently there have been cases of Chinese firms attempting to create brands and copy products to align themselves with New Zealand's good reputation. Some companies have even deliberately copied New Zealand branded infant formula products, hijacked trade names and replicated websites," she told NZPA.

Rich said the council would highlight some of Kiaora's claims, such as the company saying it was "dedicated to sourcing and providing Kiwi mums with the best and healthiest infant formula available," that "many NZ parents are using Kiaora infant formula" and that its products "have become the new standard in New Zealand."

"This is a complete surprise to our members. It's hard to fathom how Heitiki is the 'new standard' when scan data shows New Zealand and Australian supermarkets do not sell the product at all. "

Heitiki prices -- with some tins up to 169 NZ dollars (138 U.S. dollars) -- were exorbitant when compared to similar products available in New Zealand supermarkets ranging in price from 18 to 25 NZ dollars a tin, she said.

 

Editor:Yang Jie |Source: Xinhua

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