BREAKING: THE New Zealand Police have revealed a threat to poison NZ milk products with 1080 in an apparent protest over pest control.
Today it was revealed that Fonterra and Federated Farmers received threatening letters last November, along with milk packages that tested positive with the poison.
The letters threatened to contaminate infant formula and other products if NZ did not cease to use the poison by the end of March. It also threatened to disclose the matter publicly.
Up to 36 police officers have been engaged in Operation Concord.
Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement said the threat was probably a hoax, but it had to be taken seriously.
Police said Fonterra’s products were not specifically mentioned in the letter.
Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings said the threat targeted the entire NZ industry, not just the co-op group.
“We can fully assure our customers that all of our milk products are safe … and our supply chain continues to be secure and world-class,” he said today, adding that Fonterra had increased testing and security measures in light of the scare.
Sensitive to food safety
The NZ government is highly sensitive to food safety, and the impact it could have on consumer confidence in China.
Prime Minister John Key has offered parents an assurance infant formula is safe.
“We remain highly confident our products are safe,” he said.
“It is extremely unlikely anyone could deliberately contaminate the formula and there is no evidence this could have occurred.”
Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy labelled the threat “eco-terrorism”.
He said there had been extensive testing that showed products were safe.
“I want to give confidence to consumers and international consumers that New Zealand food products are safe.”
He said every resource had been made available to deal with the threat since November.
Police and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) held a joint press conference at police headquarters this afternoon.
MPI deputy director general Scott Gallacher said the organisation was as confident about the integrity of New Zealand’s food products as it was before the threat.
The New Zealand Stock Exchange has put all dairy industry entities into a temporary trading halt.
Co-operative giant Fonterra requested a trading halt from the Australian Stock Exchange today to have time to assess the information and prepare an appropriate response.
The poison 1080 is widely used by the Department of Conservation to control pests such as rats and stoats.
Deputy Commissioner Clement said the letter writer may not have realised the possible consequences of their actions and should come forward.
Police said the public should come forward with information about people they know with strong feelings about 1080.
Mr Gallagher said the action of the letter writer was “criminal blackmail” which was designed to generate fear to create a domestic policy outcome and should not undermine confidence in NZ’s food safety. It was the first threat of its kind in NZ.
Fonterra was subject to a major food safety scare in 2013 over fears that its products could contain a bacteria which could cause botulism.
Source: Queensland Country Life