Bangladesh holds Fonterra milk products over scare

Bangladesh authorities have restricted imports of powdered milk mostly from New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra following a contamination scare that has seen global recalls, officials said Tuesday.

Customs officials are holding more than 600 tonnes of powdered milk mostly from Fonterra until mandatory chemical tests showed they were safe, a senior official in the port city of Chittagong said.

"Samples have been sent for chemical tests, we will release them when reports confirm they are not containing any harmful bacteria," joint secretary of the city's customs office, Mahmudul Hasan, told AFP.

Officials have been instructed to hold consignments of milk at the border following the recall by Fonterra earlier this month of baby milk products over concerns they could contain a bacteria that could cause botulism, which is potentially fatal.

"We have instructed the customs officials to restrict delivery of those consignments pending chemical tests, because this is a matter of public health," commerce secretary Mahbub Ahmed told AFP.

The global scare sparked restrictions on imports of Fonterra-branded dairy products by countries including China since early this month.

Sri Lanka last week lifted a ban on the sale of Fonterra milk products, after two batches of powered milk were recalled on claims they contained traces of the chemical DCD.

Since July last year, Bangladesh has imported around 21,000 tonnes of powdered milk mainly from Fonterra, officials said.

The recent scare has tainted the New Zealand food industry's "clean, green" image and threatens a dairy sector that is responsible for 25 percent of the country's exports.

While no infants fell sick as a result of the contamination, the company was accused of mishandling the situation by releasing information too slowly and then giving out incomplete data when it did finally go public.

A top Fonterra executive has quit over the scare.

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