The list, which has already drawn praise from dairy companies even before it has been introduced, will be made available to consumers as well as Chinese authorities so they can check that products carrying New Zealand labels were valid.
China had asked for brand information to be added to export certificates as part of its efforts to crack down on false labelling - one of the many nefarious activities that result as byproducts of foreign formula’s suddenly tremendous popularity in China.
Through regularly reviewing controls like this, the MPI can maintain its reputation for credibility and integrity, the ministry told us.
It introduced a new export requirement on May 29, and exporters have since been required to provide detailed about their brands, including copies of actual labels, as approved by Chinese regulators with translations and associated formulation information.
“So far around 200 brand names have been provided to us,” the mnistry said.
“All listed brands have been made by the 19 registered New Zealand manufacturers which are audited regularly.”
From June 21, the MPI has been unable to issue export certificates for any brands of infant formula destined for China unless they have been listed with the ministry, which explained that the changes will help safeguard the assurances provided by New Zealand by allowing Chinese authorities to more easily identify made infant formula brands that are genuinely made in the country.
“There are currently a number of brands being sold within China that may be making false or misleading claims about their New Zealand origin,” it said, citing regulations set out in the Animal Products Act 1999.
“All New Zealand manufacturers of infant formula are subject to the same stringent government regulation and oversight, regardless of whether they produce for export or the domestic market.
“Different countries may have differing specifications for various essential nutrients and there may also be variations in labelling requirements between countries. Likewise, different markets will demand different brands and products.”
Criticism and support
However, the opposition Labour Party earlier this week said that the new labelling requirements would mean Chinese parents would receive more information about what they were feeding their babies than New Zealand parents.
It’s spokesman, Damien O’Connor, said that the government should seek to protect domestic consumers by making country of origin labelling mandatory: "That would provide the same level of information and protection for Kiwi parents as these latest changes will mean for Chinese ones."
But industry figures have been supportive of the move. Speaking to Radio New Zelaand, Rod Quin, chief executive of Westland, which last week launched three nutritional products bound for China, said the company supported the tougher regulations because brand counterfeiting and false labelling are rife.
He added that Westland is having to take legal steps to stop Chinese traders using its video images to falsely promote their own products as coming from New Zealand.