New Zealand milk stokes fears

Chi­nese firms re­call prod­ucts ex­posed to con­tam­i­na­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai zhouwent­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Chi­nese pro­duc­ers who bought con­tam­i­nated batches of whey pro­tein con­cen­trate from New Zealand were re­call­ing prod­ucts on Sun­day, deal­ing the lat­est blow to Chi­nese con­sumers’ con­fi­dence in milk pow­der prod­ucts.

Diary gi­ant Fon­terra said on Satur­day that tests had dis­cov­ered Clostrid­ium bo­tulinum in its whey pro­tein, which clients buy as raw ma­te­rial to pro­duce baby for­mula and sports drinks.

Clostrid­ium bo­tulinum is one of the world’s strong­est tox­ins and can de­stroy the hu­man ner­vous sys­tem if in­gested. In in­fants un­der 1 year old, it can trig­ger neu­ral paral­y­sis.

Chi­nese con­sumers are very alert to the qual­ity of dairy prod­ucts, es­pe­cially af­ter a se­ries of scan­dals, in­clud­ing the one in 2008 when at least six chil­dren died and about 300,000 were poi­soned af­ter be­ing ex­posed to milk pow­der tainted with melamine, a toxic chem­i­cal.

China’s largest bev­er­age pro­ducer Hangzhou Wa­haha’s Health Food Co and its Im­port and Ex­port Co, as well as in­fant nu­tri­tion com­pany Dumex, and State-owned food pro­ducer Shang­hai Sugar Cig­a­rette and Wine (Group) Co, were found to have im­ported con­tam­i­nated dairy prod­ucts from Fon­terra, the largest dairy busi­ness in New Zealand, ac­cord­ing to China’s top qual­ity watch­dog.

Shang­hai- based Dumex, which im­ported more than 208 met­ric tons of the tainted whey pro­tein con­cen­trate, said on Sun­day that 12 batches of its baby for­mula prod­ucts had been af­fected.

“Dumex has started a preven­tive re­call and has de­stroyed the af­fected fin­ished prod­ucts,” read a state­ment on Dumex’s web­site.

Shang­hai Sugar Cig­a­rette and Wine (Group) Co said af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tions that the 4.8 tons of prod­ucts from the New Zealand sup­plier had been passed on to its client, Coca-Cola Shang­hai.

In an on­line state­ment, Coca- Cola Greater China said 25 kilo­grams of the raw ma­te­ri­als were used to pro­duce drinks that blend fruits with milk un­der the port­fo­lio of Minute Maid, and the rest have been iso­lated.

“Due to the ul­tra- high tem­per­a­ture ster­il­iza­tion in the process of pro­duc­tion, do­mes­tic and for­eign ex­perts and our re­searchers agree the batches of bev­er­age prod­ucts are safe,” the state­ment said. “We are work­ing on trac­ing the pro­duc­tion and ship­ping records of the af­fected prod­ucts and re­call­ing them.”

Coca- Cola could not be reached on Sun­day to find out the num­ber of af­fected batches.

Hangzhou Wa­haha’s Health Food Co and Im­port and Ex­port Co, which im­ported nearly 15 tons of tainted whey pro­tein con­cen­trate, said the ma­te­ri­als were used to pro­duce Nu­tri-Ex­press fer­mented whey drink, which left the fac­tory by Fe­bru­ary and had al­most been sold out.

“We’re ask­ing sales staff to check with retailers whether prod­ucts of this batch are still in the mar­ket and we will re­call them im­me­di­ately,” the com­pany said on its web­site. It did not re­veal the batch num­bers.

How­ever, Wa­haha said tests did not find the toxin in the end prod­ucts, as the bac­te­ria can­not sur­vive high-acid en­vi­ron­ments dur­ing pro­duc­tion, and it has com­mis­sioned au­thor­i­ta­tive in­sti­tu­tions to con­duct tests for the toxin on its re­ten­tion sam­ples.

China Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion said it has met man­agers at Wa­haha, Co­caCola and Dumex, re­quir­ing them to take mea­sures to cope with the af­ter­math.

Car­refour Shang­hai said it has not re­ceived a no­tice from sup­pli­ers to re­call or take prod­ucts off shelves.

“We’ll talk over with our pro­cure­ment depart­ment on Mon­day whether to with­draw the prod­ucts,” said a spokesman for Car­refour in Shang­hai who gave only his sur­name, Ji.

Dumex’s baby for­mula and Wa­haha bev­er­ages were on the shelves in two supermarkets — Wu­Mart and Ito Yokado — in Bei­jing’s Chaoyang dis­trict on Sun­day.

Forty tons of con­tam­i­nated whey pro­tein con­cen­trate was found on July 31 in three batches Fon­terra pro­duced in May last year.

The raw ma­te­ri­als were sold to eight busi­nesses in China, Aus­tralia, Malaysia, Viet­nam, Thai­land and Saudi Ara­bia for use in a range of prod­ucts, and the end prod­ucts were es­ti­mated at 900 tons.

Fon­terra de­clined to re­veal the names of the eight busi­nesses due to com­mer­cial sen­si­tiv­ity.

A pol­luted pipe at its Hau­tapu plant in Waikato was re­spon­si­ble for the con­tam­i­na­tion, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Gary Ro­mano said.

No re­port of dis­eases caused by th­ese batches of prod­ucts has been re­ceived, ac­cord­ing a state­ment Fon­terra sent to China Daily.

China has halted the im­port of all milk pow­der from the coun­try, Reuters re­ported on Sun­day, cit­ing New Zealand’s trade min­is­ter.

In ad­di­tion, Aus­tralian baby for­mula maker Nu­tri­cia said it is re­call­ing three batches of its Kari­care in­fant for­mula from the New Zealand mar­ket. The prod­uct is also pop­u­lar in China.

China’s quar­an­tine au­thor­i­ties said the three batches of prod­ucts have not been im­ported to China through nor­mal trade chan­nels, but warned in­di­vid­u­als to check the batch num­bers if they have brought any such Kari­care in­fant for­mula from New Zealand or bought such prod­ucts through unau­tho­rized chan­nels on­line.

A search of “Kari­care” on Taobao, China’s lead­ing e- com­merce plat­form, on Sun­day gen­er­ated nearly 50,000 en­tries.

“Th e milk pow­der man­u­fac­tured with con­tam­i­nated raw ma­te­ri­als might have been bought by cus­tomers through over­seas pur­chas­ing but the three ques­tion­able batches have never been sold in our store,” said a cus­tomer ser­vice ex­ec­u­tive from Nu­tri­cia, who de­clined to give her name.

Tests are not re­quired for Clostrid­ium bo­tulinum un­der national reg­u­la­tions, said Cao Mingshi, deputy sec­re­tary­gen­eral of the Shang­hai Dairy As­so­ci­a­tion.

“The en­ter­prise de­tected the prob­lem by it­self and took im­me­di­ate re­call mea­sures, which is gen­er­ally nor­mal in the food sec­tor,” Cao said. “This is dif­fer­ent from some de­fec­tive prod­ucts hav­ing led to ma­jor so­cial harm and caused ail­ments to a large num­ber of con­sumers.”

More than 83 per­cent of China’s im­ported milk pow­der came from New Zealand in the first half of this year, ac­cord­ing to the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cus­toms, and ex­perts pre­dict the lat­est scare is un­likely to af­fect dairy im­ports from the coun­try.

“Some con­sumers and ex­perts pre­dicted dairy ex­ports from Europe would climb af­ter di­cyan­di­amide residue was found in milk pro­duced in New Zealand in Jan­uary, which didn’t hap­pen,” Cao said. Ou Hailin in Bei­jing con­trib­uted to this story.

CUI MENG / CHINA DAILY

Mu Lip­ing (left) checks with a sales­woman at a su­per­mar­ket in Bei­jing on Sun­day whether her newly bought Dumex baby for­mula should be re­called. Dumex an­nounced it was re­call­ing 12 batches of prod­ucts in China that may be con­tam­i­nated. Mu found her pur­chase didn’t be­long to the re­called batches and left with the baby power.

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