FGC supports crackdown on illegal baby formula exports
Press Release 28/9/12
The FGC supports the crackdown by the Ministry for Primary Industries on unlawful commercial infant formula exports from New Zealand to China and other markets.
FGC CEO Katherine Rich said the quantum of the illegal exports was of concern because it meant the products were not overseen by experienced infant formula companies with professional supply-chain networks for distribution into the markets concerned.
“Infant formula is an extremely sensitive product category for many reasons, and any failure by a New Zealand company potentially poses a threat to New Zealand’s international reputation as a supplier of safe, reliable, and quality food products,” Mrs Rich says.
“Last year, food and grocery exports were worth $26 billion to our economy – that’s 57 per cent of total merchandise exports.
“Infant formula provides a significant economic opportunity for New Zealand. Exports grew from $63 million in 1999 to $753 million in 2009. This product category continues to offer significant opportunities for market growth.
“But it’s a market that needs to be treated responsibly. New Zealand cannot afford to allow its reputation for safe and quality food to be compromised, putting any of these exports at risk.
“We completely understand why there is a growing market for trusted infant formula in China, and New Zealand is well placed to deliver products that meet the needs of concerned Chinese parents, but servicing this market on a commercial scale requires the absolute strictest adherence to all food safety and export laws.
“Though food safety is paramount, how infant formula is marketed by New Zealand companies also requires dedicated attention.
“The New Zealand government was a signatory to the World Health Organisation’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, so New Zealand is obligated to ensure it markets infant formula in a responsible way, internationally and domestically.
“Our country has implemented the principles of the WHO Code through the Infant Nutrition Council’s Code of Practice for the Marketing of Infant Formula, and all reputable New Zealand companies with an established track record in the market strictly adhere to this Code.
“Locally, there have been too many examples in the past few months of start-up infant formula companies breaching the Infant Nutrition Council’s Code and making fundamental mistakes with their marketing. The inappropriate use of the Prime Minister’s image to endorse products was recently highlighted in the media, but of more concern are activities which clearly breach both the New Zealand and WHO Codes, such as the publication and promotion of health claims, advertising in the media, and implying that infant formula is superior to breastmilk.
“New Zealand’s reputation in the world infant formula market is second to none, built in some cases over many decades by companies that have developed trust in their brands by delivering quality products. We must do everything we can to guard that reputation.
“FGC will continue to work constructively with the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Ministry of Health, and the Infant Nutrition Council (the infant formula peak body) on all issues relating to these products,” Mrs Rich says.