Note from Fluoride Action Network:
1080 is the common name of a highly toxic pesticide called Sodium fluoroacetate. NZ aerially sprays 1080 to kill possums throughout the country. This is its molecular formula:
The Government has given an assurance that up to $15 million of New Zealand baby formula on its way to China, won’t be held up for lack of a “1080-free” certificate.
But exporters have accused the Government of “game-playing” over a shipment already halted at a Shanghai port, even though it was sent before an agreed time frame.
Last Tuesday it was revealed Fonterra and Federated Farmers had received threatening letters last November, that included baby formula samples laced with a lethal dose of 1080 poison.
The letters threatened to contaminate infant formula if New Zealand did not stop using the poison for forest pest control by the end of this month.
Authorities kept the threat quiet for four months, to allow police to investigate and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to implement a testing regime before it had to alert key New Zealand’s trading partners.
On March 10 – the day the public was made aware of the threat – China’s Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (Aqsiq) announced all infant milk formula shipped from New Zealand since that date, required a 1080-free certificate.
MPI deputy director-general Scott Gallacher said $15 million worth of milk products on their way to China would arrive at the border with the correct certification.
“What we got on Friday was the approval and confirmation from Aqsiq of the language and templated format of the certificates they’re looking for MPI to sign off on,” he said.
“The requirement for those certificates have applied to all exports from after the 10th of March, which means any exports that left the country prior to that, our understanding is that they don’t require this stuff.”
Products exported since March 10, would still be on the water and would probably not have arrived at the Chinese border yet, Gallacher said.
But they would arrive with the relevant certification to pass into the Chinese market.
As well as the certificate from MPI, there would also be a certificate of analysis from the laboratory that carried out the test, confirming the products’ 1080-free status.
That however, did not help a full shipment of product shipped in February that exporters claim was held at the border late last week, because of the 1080 threat.
Infant Formula Exporters’ Association chairman Michael Barnett said a shipment that left New Zealand in February was stopped by Chinese authorities last Friday.
“About three or four days before the shipment arrived, we had the opportunity to do a pre-clearance of all the documents,” he said.
“And when they presented their documents, the Chinese said they would probably want to test for sodium fluoroacetate .”
Barnett said the exporters concerned were still waiting on the outcome of that process.
But it was frustrating MPI did not seem to accept the shipment had been held up outside the agreed terms.
“We’ve gone out of our way to explain to them [MPI], and it seems to me we’re just dealing with people who don’t understand standard commercial transactions.
“To my mind it’s game-playing and it’s unnecessary.”
Gallacher said MPI had followed up with the manufacturers, exporters and Aqsiq.
“It has been confirmed that there shouldn’t have been any product encountering any difficulty as a result of this criminal blackmail threat, at any time last week,” he said.
“And so if there had been any product experiencing any difficulties from Aqsiq, they’ve indicated it wouldn’t have been because of this. But again we’re working with people to make sure we can get to the bottom of that information.”
Meanwhile, the police investigation was ongoing but it appeared little progress had been made.
Police were still trying to track down any missing 1080 poison as the hunt continued for the blackmailer.
Asked whether MPI had received any similar blackmail threats directed toward it, Prime Minister John Key said “no”.
He was not aware of any other copycat threats mailed to any other organisations.
As of Monday, about 70 people had contacted the police call line with information.
MPI had completed more than 52,000 batch tests on all milk products to be sold both domestically and offshore.