John Key shakes hands with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping.
Photo / NZ Herald
The fact that President Xi of China was so well briefed
on the Fonterra food scare issue in his meeting with John Key
last night was an indication of how seriously China took it,
the Prime Minister said afterwards.
The president told Mr Key that food safety standards were
hugely important to Chinese consumers, particularly because
of its one-child policy.
Mr Key emerged from the 45-minute meeting at Apec in Bali
believing that China had no concerns about how the food
safety scare had been handled.
"But he can see the sincerity of the way we are handling the
issue," Mr Key told reporters after the meeting.
He said the fact he was prepared to travel to China was
another demonstration of that sincerity.
China would facilitate his visit early next year after the
result of the Government inquiries were known.
Asked if the president had expressed any concerns, Mr Key
said "the fact that he was engaged, understood and was
briefed tells you that we can't take this situation lightly."
The message the Government would be giving Fonterra was the
same message it would be giving to its own regulator, the
Ministry of Primary Industries - "that this is serious
"We send about $8 billion worth of product to China every
year; there are consequences if mistakes are made or if we
don't reach the gold standard," Mr Key said.
China suspended imports of Fonterra whey powder and dairy
base powder in August after testing by AgResearch in New
Zealand suggested 38 tonnes of whey concentrate could contain
toxin-producing clostridium botulinum.
Other companies also recalled their products containing the
Further testing revealed that non-toxic producing bacteria
had been present, but the crisis damaged the reputation of
New Zealand baby formula producers across the board.
Mr Key said he had put in "a plug" to President Xi for small
companies that were having their baby formula held up at
"He can understand the plight of those companies and the
issues involved and he was confident we could work our way
The president said Chinese consumers were aware of what had
taken place but they had historically respected New Zealand's
products for very high safety standard and they were
standards Chinese companies tried to emulate.
Mr Key invited President Xi for a visit - he has been to New
Zealand before but not as president.
A visit could be possible at the end of next year when
Australia is due to host the G20 summit.
- Audrey Young in Bali