TODAY |

Reaction swift and serious after baby formula threat

Formula manufacturing plants have increased security, some supermarkets are taking infant formula off the shelves and Fonterra and Federated Farmers are on high alert.

Bernadine Oliver Kerby looks at what 1080 is and how it works. Source: 1 NEWS

The reaction to news of a possible 1080 poison threat to infant formula has been swift and serious.

Parents are being urged not to stop using formula - unless the package appears to have been tampered with.

Anonymous letters laced with high concentrations of 1080, and received by Federated Farmers and Fonterra in November, threatened that the poison would be put into infant formula unless New Zealand stopped 1080 drops for pest control by the end of March.

The police say they've been investigating the threats since November which has prompted many to ask why they decided to go public yesterday, three months later.

Prime Minister John Key told Seven Sharp the threat wasn't made public earlier because the Government wanted to give the police time to catch the offender and also wanted to develop a test to make sure all product is safe.

Mr Key said news outlets had started to become aware of something going on, prompting yesterday's media announcement.

He said the Government has been advised that it's extremely unlikely anyone could contaminate formula.

"This person is being utterly irresponsible with the New Zealand economy...on the basis of their selfish views. It's a downright disgrace," the Prime Minister said.

More than 40,000 products that have been tested since the threat contain no traces of 1080, says Jo Goodhew, Food Safety Minister.

Ministry for Primary Industries deputy director general Scott Gallacher says "mums and dads should continue to use the product" despite the threat. But if any product appears to have been tampered with, for example seals broken or punctured, "then clearly it should not be consumed".

Supermarket chain Countdown is stepping up security around infant formula, including moving it to behind service counters or Lotto desks, so it's monitored, either in person or by CCTV.

Meanwhile an anti-1080 campaigner, Clyde Graf, is distancing himself from those behind the extreme threat.

"This has to be taken seriously. It is is a random nutter, obviously," he said. "And...it's not a reflection of the people who are opposed to 1080 in New Zealand. And that's a worry, that's a bit of a concern, that all people who are opposed to 1080 may fall under this banner, which is completely untrue."

Infant Formula Exporters Association chairman Michael Barnett says it's not just New Zealand's $440 million annual infant formula exports, but our whole reputation as an exporter of food that is at risk "as a result of this nutter".

ONE News political editor Corin Dann says while in all likelihood the threat is a hoax, international headlines could cause problems.

"And you may for example see countries - we've seen it before - the likes of Sri Lanka slap on a ban. They're looking really for some competitive advantage over our milk products. That could be one reaction to look out for tonight," Dann says.

If you suspect your product has been tampered with, contact the police on 0800 723 665 or take the product to your local police station.

If you have concerns about the health and well-being of your baby, call Healthline on 0800 611 116. If you have concerns about the nutritional requirements of your baby, call Plunketline on 0800 933 922.