Following a massive investigation, a 60-year-old Auckland businessman has been charged over an alleged 1080 milk contamination threat. The man, according to the police, blackmailed Fonterra and Federated Farmers by sending them menacing letters and contaminated milk packages, expressly targeting infant milk formula.
The threat was unveiled to the public only a few months later, last March, rising concerns over possible health risks; infant formula was then pulled from the shelves. The alleged culprit is now facing charges that are punishable by a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.
“It was an extremely serious matter,” commented Prime Minister John Key, “the Government took it seriously because of the potential implications for families, and also our international trading relations.” Key added that, if the charges were proven, it would be a “great relief” for all the families potentially involved.
Over 150,000 batch tests have been carried out since the threat. Police dedicated more than 30,000 staff hours to the operation, considering about 2,600 people and identifying 60 of them as of significant interest. All in all, the investigation ended up costing the government over $3 million. An acceptable price, according to Labour leader Andrew Little, given the extent of the danger.
(Updated on Oct 14th, 9.01 am)