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NZ's Fonterra says has no notice of Chinese action on food scare

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand's Fonterra, the world's largest dairy exporter, said on Monday it had received no official notice from Chinese authorities over action against dairy products that might be contaminated with a bacterium which can cause botulism.

In a statement to the NZ stock exchange it said it had yet to hear about the official Chinese response to the food scare.

"As far as Fonterra is aware, the New Zealand Government is working with Chinese authorities to determine the scope of the reaction, and no official notification has been received," it said in the statement.

The chief executive of Fonterra flew to China on Saturday to consult with customers and authorities.

China, which imports most of its milk powder from New Zealand, has asked domestic importers to recall any products which may have been contaminated by the bacteria, and increased scrutiny of New Zealand dairy products coming into the country.

Fonterra said on Saturday it had sold New Zealand-made whey protein concentrate contaminated with Clostridium Botulinum to eight customers, including food and beverage companies and animal stock feed firms, for possible use in infant formula, body building powder, and other products. None of its own branded products were affected, it said.

Fonterra repeated in its NZX statement that there were no confirmed reports of illness linked with the affected whey product.

It said whole milk powder, skim milk powder, fresh milk, yoghurt, cheese, butter and other spreads and UHT (ultra high temperature) milk, along with those sold on its GDT (GlobalDairyTrade) auction platform were not affected by the issue.

The New Zealand dollar fell across the board on Monday after the news because of dairy is the country's biggest single export earner with annual earnings of around NZ$12 billion.

Units in the Fonterra Shareholders Fund, which gives outside investors an exposure to Fonterra's dividend payouts, closed on Friday at NZ$7.12.

(This story was corrected to add dropped word "not" in paragraph eight)

(Gyles Beckford)

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