Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully fronted up at news conference in China late this afternoon to try to allay fears over New Zealand's milk products.
Mr McCully apologised and vowed to keep people up to date on
Fonterra says the latest revelation that 42 tonnes of milk powder was quarantined in China earlier this year is "unfortunate".
Mr McCully said the timing of the latest incident "is not
perfect given the current issues, but it's not an embarrassment
given it's not a public health issue in any shape or form."
The dairy giant was already beset by food standards issues after the bacteria that can cause botulism was found in its supply chain.
It had another stumble in China in May when 42 tonnes of milk powder were held up over elevated nitrate levels.
Fonterra has told ONE News there was another similar incident this year with UHT milk.
'Relationship remains strong'
Mr McCully says his visit to Beijing this week has reaffirmed the strength of the relationship between New Zealand and China.
"While trade and economic issues currently dominate the agenda, my discussions in Beijing have been wide ranging and have emphasised the extent of our shared interests," Mr McCully said.
Mr McCully today held discussions with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and State Councillor Yang Jiechi.
"Mr Wang and I spoke openly and constructively about issues with some dairy products and the response by Fonterra and government agencies," Mr McCully said.
"The New Zealand Government has high expectations for New Zealand exports, including the application of strict food safety standards. When issues arise we expect good disclosure and remedial action," he said.
"Both Chinese and New Zealand ministers acknowledge that Fonterra has work to do in the coming weeks to rebuild consumer confidence.
"China is an extremely important trading partner and we are committed to responding to this issue in a timely and cooperative manner," the Minister said.
Fonterra 'endorses border testing'
Fonterra today said the 42 metric tonnes of Fonterra milk powder that did not meet China's testing standards in May was an example of the border testing system working well.
The product was tested before leaving New Zealand and met specifications, said Ian Palliser, Fonterra's Group Director of Food Safety and Quality.
It was then shipped to China, where local tests showed it no longer met specifications, he said.
The product was immediately put on hold and regulators in both China and New Zealand were informed.
"The product remained 100 per cent within Fonterra's control, did not enter the Chinese market, and there was no food safety risk involved," Mr Palliser said.
Fonterra fully endorses and complies with the practice of country of origin and country of destination testing for all of its products, he said.
"Border testing is an open and transparent process, and is a standard part of the international food trade."
In China, a list of all non-compliant products is published each month on a government public website, Mr Palliser said.