New Zealand to investigate Fonterra botulism scare

Theo Spierings, chief executive of New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings has said questions will be answered

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New Zealand's Prime Minister, John Key, has launched a ministerial-level inquiry into a botulism scare at dairy giant Fonterra.

Fonterra said last week that batches of concentrated whey product used in infant formula that were exported to China and elsewhere could contain botulism-causing bacteria.

The government inquiry will be over by the end of the year, Mr Key said.

Fonterra has announced two of its own internal investigations.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has also said it will conduct a separate inquiry.

China worries

New Zealand media reported that details of the inquiry would be decided by cabinet next week.

Mr Key said he would go to China after the investigation was completed, to give assurances and discuss the results.

China was one of the first countries to block the imports of the potentially contaminated product. Later, other countries also took similar measures.

Fonterra was criticised in Chinese state media and at home for delays in disclosing the contamination.

Fonterra's chief executive, Theo Spierings, has said questions will be answered.

On Monday, Fonterra announced that its board had established an inquiry committee and would conduct an independent review into the chain of events.

"It is critical that we identify... lessons quickly, so our farmers, governments, customers, consumers and unit holders can again have full confidence in Fonterra and its products," Fonterra chairman John Wilson said in a statement.

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