Protestor threatened in November to lace Fonterra infant fomula with 1080 poison; 40,000 tests done and no poison found; dairy stocks halted on NZX

Protestor threatened in November to lace Fonterra infant fomula with 1080 poison; 40,000 tests done and no poison found; dairy stocks halted on NZX

By Bernard Hickey

The Ministry of Primary Industries and Police have announced an anti-1080 poison protester sent letters and poisoned samples of infant formula to Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings and Federated Farmers in November threatening to lace infant formula with 1080 from the end of March unless the Government stopped using the poison to kill pests.

They said more than 40,000 tests of infant formula had been done and no poison had been found.

Meanwhile, the NZX halted trade in shares of dairy companies and the New Zealand dollar fell almost a cent to just under 73 USc through afternoon trading.

Prime Minister John Key, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew held a news conference in the Beehive to reassure consumers that the chances of the threat being carried out were extremely low.

"It's a form of eco-terrorism. The reality of anyone carrying out this threat are extremely low," Key said, adding the Government would not give in to the threat by stopping drops of 1080 on native forest. He also described it as a hoax and an act of criminal blackmail.

Key said international trading partners had been informed in February, including those in China. The Government had originally planned to announce the details of the threat next week, but had brought forward the announcement because of media inquiries.

Police appealed for public help to find the protester, or for the protester to turn themselves in.

"Anonymous letters were received by Federated Farmers and Fonterra in November 2014, accompanied by small packages of milk powder which subsequently tested positive for the presence of a concentrated form of 1080," Police said.

"The letters threatened to contaminate infant and other formula with 1080 unless New Zealand stopped using 1080 for pest control by the end of March 2015. The letter writer threatened to disclose the threat publicly if the Government did not meet this demand by this time," Police said.

A full investigation had been underway since November in an Auckland-based investigation code named Operation Concord with up to 36 staff. The Government had informed its major trading partners and informed 20 manufacturing operations in New Zealand.

"Whilst there is a possibility that this threat is a hoax, we must treat the threat seriously and a priority investigation is underway," says Deputy Commissioner (National Operations) Mike Clement. 

"We therefore encourage the letter writer to come forward to Police.  The letter writer may not have really considered the implications of their actions when this communication was drafted.  Now is the time to put this right by picking up the phone and calling us," Clement said.

Audits done and new security introduced

MPI Deputy Director-General Scott Gallacher said the Government’s first priority was protecting the health and wellbeing of consumers.

“We are confident that New Zealand infant and other formula is just as safe today as it was before this threat was made. People should keep using it as they always have,” Gallacher said.

“People should feel equally confident about using imported infant formula which has to meet New Zealand’s strict food safety requirements and is equally secure in the retail chain," he said.

"The ability for anybody to deliberately contaminate infant and other formula during manufacturing is extremely low. Regardless, we encourage people to be vigilant when buying infant and other formula. Our advice is always to check packaging for signs of tampering. We are reinforcing that advice as a result of this blackmail threat."

Gallacher said MPI had strengthened security measures in retail stores, conducted enhanced milk and milk product testing, including a new 1080 testing programme, increased vigilance by all relevant players in the supply chain, introduced extra physical security at factories and conducted an audit programme to confirm dairy processing facilities were secure.

“The combined MPI and industry testing programmes confirm there is no 1080 in infant and other formula. We have tested just over 40,000 raw milk and product samples and we have had no 1080 detections,” Gallacher said.

“This criminal threat is designed to cause fear in order to generate a political outcome. It is using food as a vehicle but should not undermine confidence in our world-class food safety system or in any manufacturer," he said.

Synlait and Fonterra make statements

Synlait Milk said it was confident that its food safety systems and security standards protected the integrity of its products. 

“We have full end to end supply chain control from farm to container for all milk powder and infant formula products. This includes quality testing of raw milk and comprehensive testing of finished product before it is loaded in shipping containers for export," MD John Penno said.

Existing security at Synlait includes a fully fenced site, electronic gates, and comprehensive Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) recording and swipe card access to critical key areas such as their nutritional plant, Penno said.

Fonterra said it acknowledged the announcement by the Police and MPI and had been informed there was no health risk to consumers.

"It has assessed the likelihood of the threat being carried out as ‘extremely low’," Fonterra said.

“We can fully assure our customers and consumers that all of our milk and products are safe and of high quality, and our supply chain continues to be secure and world-class. We are playing our part in helping the Government manage the criminal threat, as is the rest of the dairy industry," Fonterra Chief Executive Theo Spierings said.

“We have taken immediate and decisive steps to give our customers and consumers added confidence – including increased testing and security measures.”

Fonterra had worked with MPI to establish a validated testing regime that was being used by the dairy industry for both raw milk and dairy products targeted by the threat, Spierings said.

"In mid-January, Fonterra began its own testing regime to provide its customers with further assurances as to the safety of its products. Fonterra is testing all raw milk that it processes - testing every tanker. Fonterra is testing all paediatric products and nutritional base powders that it manufactures as well as all paediatric products and nutritional base powders manufactured after 1 September 2014," Fonterra said.

(Updated with comments, reaction, detail, Key's comments)

Copy of letter sent to Spierings in November.

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Compared to property prices, this kind of content barely raises an eyebrow. 

Knowing how animals die so badly when 1080 poisoned, I cannot possibly imagine if someone cares enough about these animals they would purposefully do this to a baby.

Interesting that this happened in November and we only just found out. I'm sure Fonterra would like this one to go away.

The threat was "Stop using 1080 by March 15" so that's next week.  Bit pointless to make that kind of threat, then start early.

Kinda my thoughts as well. Now we do know, just about everyone in a supermarket is going to look twice at anyone lingering by the baby formula. 

And those 40,000 tests were a waste of time too!

Interesting that it surfaces during a bi-election National is losing and when Key is under pressure about the surveilance issue.
Personally I think this should have been kept suppressed just as the details of some other crimes are. Publication makes the criminal act, posting a threatening letter,successful. The actual carrying out of the dirty deed is very unlikely 

Well this video makes a compelling case that 1080 is an environmental crime. Poisoning Paradise.
I have read books by respected professionals that also spell out a solid case against it.
Can't say I sanction the threat though.

That video is an emotional non-science piece of well, doo doo. I mean nice fluffy pics of baby deer, cute, dont want to poision these do we? but many are introduced species of no consquence, arguably a pest.  DOC makes it pretty if it doesnt do what it does the toll on the native wildlife will be huge. The Green party actually supports its use as well, their decision seems based on the best science to protect NZ species.
Do we have any evidence humans have been effected? not that I am aware of. 
Now I know tmany in the hunting and shooting community dont like it but really that seems to be down to they dont want their past time impacted.
So show me some real scientific evidence.

Yes an emotional piece for sure. But the case for 1080 killing off the bird life has pretty strong anectodal evidence.
A couple of the facts presented by one author is that photo of the Runhine ranges used to show the destruction of possums are not possums at all. Their are photos of the ranges that look the same that predate the introduction of possum. Another is that possums tend to live on the fringes of the forrest near farmland, numbers are thin deeper in. So wholesale desposits of the poison deeper in are not really being targeted at possums. In light of this are we protecting  forests or diary farmers from TB?

are there alternatives?

I thought for possums there was.  Certainly safer on the dogs.
But what about stoat and ferret and rat control, does 1080 come in there?

Introduced pests indeed, but I reckon a few deer have more use in the eco system (taking the place of moa) unlike trout in the waterways

oh gosh, come on.  You could not wish for a better poison! Its highly toxic, and therefore cost effective.  It degrades quickly.  It has no cumulative effects.  It's not an endocrine disruptor.  It has no teratogenic effects.  Oh and its naturally occurring in some plant species.  If someone gave me a glass of water with laced with 200 ppb fluoroacetate I'd happily drink it.

Anecdotal evidence = oxymoron. 

I had a cup of tea this morning, but I cannot prove it, to you it is only reallyan anecdote. But it's true. There is a case for anecdotal evidence.

sounds like case study

If they haven't caught the offender and confirmed motive, seems like an unwarranted jump for JK to be whipping up hysteria about eco-terrorists and protestors.  Won't be able to take back that smear if it turns out to be an ex Fonterra employee who doesn't really give a damn about 1080 either way, or a student prankster, or somebody with genuine delusions, or someone whose wife had an affair with a Fonterra exec, or all the other possibilities which are on the table until the offender is caught and we have a real motive rather than a whole lot of speculation and assumptions.

Or a hunter who's been out in the bush where 1080's been extensively used, only to find his targets dead and dying from 1080 poisoning, let's not forget that some of the strongest anti-1080 voices do come from the hunting community and the fringe of that contains a lot of loners who eke out a bit of living from the bush.

Exactly.  Can't make that kind of call without information.  Might be about 1080, or the 1080 might be a giant red herring while it's really about a grudge against Fonterra, or something completely irrational.

could even be a rival dairy or infant formula company looking to deal NZ or Fonterra a credibility blow.... after all that's hopw business is done in the big leagues - as mentioned on this site earlier (it's not price, product or services; it's ligigation, patents, and sabotage)

Read Jan Wright's report on 1080 and educate yourself:
The anti-1080 brigade are a bunch of loons and aggrieved hunters (who don't give a toss for native wildlife, only the fact that their target animals get killed before they can do the killing). I went to a 'talk' by one of the prominent anti-1080 proponents in Tasman. It consisted of a whole series of meaningless acecdotes and useless pseudo science.

"a whole series of meaningless acecdotes and useless pseudo science."

Sadly that's exactly what one side says about the other.

eg One persons "anecdote" is someone else eye-witness account.
pseudo-science is any study you don't agree with.

Does explain why we find fluoride "naturally occurring" in stream water though.

There is a reason why scientist are highly suspicious of 'anecdotal evidence'. Here, knock yourself out:
Waters with high fluoride content are found mostly in calcium-deficient ground waters in many basement aquifers, such as granite and gneiss, in geothermal waters and in some sedimentary basins.
And your point is what exactly?

re: fluoride mention last time I put up with pro-fluoride rantings, they were telling me they were "all about the science" while I was a faith based chemical-phobe, that fluoride was naturally occuring so safe (yeah?!), that "fluoride was fluoride, no matter what form it comes in"

Oh... you quote medical "proof" against ancedotes.
Here's an anecdote for you.  Last visit to GP for muscle pains, low blood pressure, and sore gut (including swelling and bloating).   Doc sends me for a bunch of blood tests (must be science) and prescribes gout meds and warns me about my cholestrol.    Gives me eye examine with torch that sets of short seizure, then while I'm still shaking takes my blood pressure and tells me it's a little high.   So you back his "science" and I back my anecdotal experience.

Thanks for proving my points so superbly. I would have said you were engaged in parody of the highest order had I not known this was par for the course from you.

So like the "science doctor" you never bothered to ask what was my recent diet.  Eggs on toast an hour before the tests, pizza and wine the night before, and McDonalds for lunch on the run.  Not my normal diet at all.

The doctors "blood pressure" reading of "high" was in direct opposition to the previous reading done by a paramedic using a computerised system.

Likwise my anecdote of "the doctors are useless (in this place)" was futher corroberated by their ordering x-ray of my broken hand.  Then declaring it not broken, three times, despite my protests.
 He used the technology, he did his "science"... I only had anecdote.  Next day I get a call from a nurse..."umm it is broken you'll have to come in".

Or the "science" that told farmers to pour on super phosphate and urea, despite the stories of it causing pasture and other soil damage.
Or the "science" that for years has abosolutely insisted that every cow must be fully milked out...only they just tested it and found it only makes a 10% SCC change on average so now it's ok... "until they discover new data".

Science is a process, not an answer.

you do , of course, understand the link between flouride and 1080,  right??

(Offensive comment deleted, Ed. Please see our commenting policy here -

This is an offensive  comment and should be deleted : A few dead Chinese babies, potentially - who cares, there are already too many of them, right?

a convenient red herring?

If you need to be safe, buy Australian made baby milk powder.. Possums are protected specie there..

It should be Anti-Eco Terrorists, not Eco-Terrorists.  PM's spin doctors at work again.  He even managed to include anti-GCSB sentiment in his comments on National Radio this morning.  Orwellian.

What is the alternative to 1080? Some sorts of bounty scheme? 

vitamin d and peanut butter (or was it e)