“IT’S a big plus for the town,” said Toora business owner Irene Spooner, on hearing the news that the ViPlus Dairy factory has gained accreditation for exporting infant formula to China. “I am totally thrilled to hear their accreditation has come through so quickly.” Mrs Spooner, who runs the local newsagency, said that she believes ViPlus Dairy Pty Ltd is one of just four companies in Australia to have gained accreditation to date under the new rules.
As ‘The Mirror’ reported last month, in the wake of the deaths of six babies in 2008 and the hospitalisation of thousands more from tainted milk powder that contained the industrial chemical melamine, China introduced revised regulations significantly increasing standards for domestic infant formula producers in areas such as product safety control, purchase of raw materials, formula product inspection, manufacturing process and product traceability. It also introduced strict new rules requiring foreign companies importing dairy products to undergo a registration and audit process.
Initially only two of 19 Australian companies that had been exporting infant milk formula to China gained registration under the new regulations, which came into effect in May – Australian Dairy Park, which sources product from Murray Goulburn, and Murray Goulburn itself, whose own brand of infant formula is produced at the MG factory at Cobden. The Toora dairy factory had only just got going again, under new owners who renovated it extensively, after years of lying idle, when it had to curtail production.
When ‘The Mirror’ toured ViPlus Dairy’s squeaky clean, smartly renovated plant in February, the factory was sourcing base milk powder from Australian and New Zealand manufacturers and adding nutrients and minerals to produce infant formula. A few small runs had taken place and continuous production of formula for the lucrative Chinese market was about to begin. It was only a few short weeks later that the new regulations came into effect. Although a spokesperson for the factory confirmed that ViPlus Dairy has indeed gained accreditation, she was not forthcoming with details as to when production of infant formula for export to China will begin again in earnest.
Currently, there are only a few workers at the factory to keep it clean and ticking over. Work has begun, however, on the exciting second stage of the development of the factory. This will include the installation of a new spray driver and accompanying machinery, an on-site waste water treatment plant and a facility for producing UHT milk. In the long term ViPlus plans to produce its own milk powder.
The news of ViPlus gaining accreditation comes as the pharmacy at Toora is going from strength to strength, and so, said Irene Spooner, is the local Foodworks supermarket, which was purchased by new owners in recent years. “I am very pleased to have the supermarket and the pharmacy going so well,” she commented. It is all good news for the local economy, as is the news that the former Prom View Lodge nursing home, which is situated on one of Toora’s prime sites, including a spectacular view of Corner Inlet, has found a buyer. At the June council meeting, South Gippsland Shire Council agreed to allow a rezoning of the site to Rural Activity Zone to allow Prom Country Aged Care to enter into a contract of sale with a private business purchaser who wishes to use the facility for tourism accommodation.