31 May 2018

Greater food safety reassurance needed over M bovis - exporter

5:52 pm on 31 May 2018

An infant formula exporter says he's been fielding concerned calls from around the world about Mycoplasma bovis, and the government should be doing more to reassure consumers.

Cows on Angela Payne's farm

Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

New Image Group founder Graeme Clegg said his business had been fielding inquiries from all around the world about safety aspects of the disease, since the government announced a phased eradication of the disease on Monday.

About 150,000 cattle will be culled as part of the eradication programme.

Mycoplasma bovis can cause lameness, abortions and mastitis in cows, but there is no risk to human health from the infection.

The government and scientists have said in official statements that there is no risk from either consuming the milk or meat of diseased animals.

Mr Clegg said his company had been working quickly to reassure overseas markets their products posed absolutely no danger to consumers.

"I realise that the [government's] statement had to be made, but there wasn't clarity of the fact that there is no health threat [to humans] associated with it," he said.

"So you can imagine mothers around the world with babies on infant formula just wondering if a disease was so serious that hundreds of thousands of cows were going to be slaughtered ... then they would be concerned about the health risks to their babies," he said.

Mr Clegg said the business had recieved calls and e-mails from South Africa, China, Taiwan and the Middle East.

"Our products are universally sold all around the world, so we have a very big customer base," he said.

Through its own announcements and reassurances, the company had managed to pre-empt any losses or damage being done, Mr Clegg said.

"If you know something's going to catch fire you've got to put it out quickly before it takes over," he said.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has been approached for comment.

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