BEIJING (AP) -- New Zealand's foreign minister said he assured Chinese leaders on Thursday of his country's commitment to the safety of its milk following a botulism scare.
New Zealand, a major milk exporter, has launched a national-level effort to reassure foreign customers after its dairy giant, Fonterra, announced the discovery of bacteria that can cause botulism in whey powder used in infant formula. That sparked a global recall.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully met with China's foreign minister and another Cabinet official and said he assured them of his government's "total and absolute commitment" to food quality.
"I believe that New Zealand's unambiguous commitment to meeting quality standards in the export of food has been appropriately underlined," said McCully at a news conference.
China became a major market for milk exporters because parents turned to higher-priced supplies from New Zealand and other countries in 2008 after tainted domestic supplies killed six babies and sickened thousands.
New Zealand's government announced an investigation this week led by two Cabinet ministers into dairy quality standards.
In a separate incident, another New Zealand supplier said this week it found high levels of nitrate in lactoferrin powder shipped to China. The Chinese product quality agency impounded the powder and ordered suppliers of lactoferrin to submit results of quality tests.
McCully said his government will watch closely as Fonterra tries to rebuild Chinese consumer confidence.
"Fonterra has a job ahead of it rebuilding consumer confidence here. But I do not want to pretend that is a matter only for the company. This is something the New Zealand government will be watching very carefully as well," said McCully.
"This is an export trade that is part of our international brand," he said. "All New Zealanders take that very seriously."
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