Infant formula contamination threat

10 March 2015

A threat has been made to contaminate infant and other formula with the toxin 1080. The New Zealand Government is taking this threat seriously. 

Criminal Threat to infant and other formula

 What you need to know

  • Infant formula now is as safe as it was before this threat was made.
  • If your baby is not drinking infant formula they are not at risk from this threat.
  • Where babies are not breastfed, a properly prepared, commercial infant formula is recommended as the best alternative for babies under one year of age.
  • Parents using infant formula should check the formula packaging for signs of tampering before using it.
  • Ministry for Primary Industries advice is available on how to ensure formula is free from contamination can be found or contact PlunketLine 0800 933 922 or Healthline 0800 611 116
  • Parents may harm infants by feeding them alternatives to commercial infant formula.
  • Cows' milk should not be given to babies less than 12 months of age.
  • In some instances women may be able to restart breastfeeding. If you wish to seek advice on this contact PlunketLine 0800 933 922. If you have any concerns you can discuss these with Healthline on 0800 611 116 or PlunketLine 0800 933 922

Ill Baby

  • If your baby is unwell, but has not consumed infant formula they are not at risk from this threat. You should follow your usual practice, including calling HealthLine, PlunketLine or your general practice for advice.
  • If you are feeding your baby infant formula and they are well then continue with your feeding practice. If you have concerns, discard the current tin and purchase a new one and confirm it has not been tampered with.
  • Ministry for Primary Industries advice on the steps you can take to ensure formula is free from contamination can be found on or by contacting PlunketLine 0800 933 922 or Healthline 0800 611 116
  • The early symptoms for poisoning related to this threat are similar to those seen in sick infants and adults.
  • Testing by MPI; precautions by retailers; and checks for tampering means the risk of infant or other formulas being contaminated as a result of this threat is very low.
  • Parents can call PlunketLine if they have concerns about feeding; and Healthline if they have any concerns if their baby being unwell. They will advise on the best course of action to take.


Anyone poisoned with 1080 will need hospital treatment.


Health services will promptly report any poisoning to both the Police and to the Medical Officer of Health.

Actions (if necessary):

Health has been working closely with MPI and Police and has briefed key health agencies about the threat and actions being taken to minimise it.

How did this happen

Fonterra and Federated Farmers received anonymous letters in late 2014. These letters were accompanied by packages of powder, which tested positive for 1080. Police were alerted immediately.The letters contained a threat to release infant and other formula contaminated with 1080 to consumers. This contamination was to occur unless New Zealand stopped using 1080 for pest control by late March. The person or people making this threat say they intend to run an international media campaign to publicise their threat and pressure the government to stop using 1080.