Tainted baby formula recalled
80,000 tins have been sent to local retailers since mid July
The city has become another victim of the botulism scare rooted in New Zealand, as more than 80,000 cans of tainted toddler formula have been sent to local retailers since mid July. But the government assured consumers that toddlers aged over 1 year of age face low health risks.
Cow & Gate announced on Monday morning that it was recalling two batches of “Happy Kid 3”, a growing-up formula for toddlers of 1 to 3 years old, since they were made with whey proteins contaminated by bacteria that can cause botulism.
The Britain- based baby formula manufacturer said it was first informed by its supplier, Fonterra, last Friday that “some raw materials” were probably contaminated by the potentially deadly bacteria. The confirmation came on Monday.
Bottoms of the tainted formula’s tins were marked with batch number “3178” or “3179” on the first line. The manufactured dates, printed next to the batch marking, read “27 06 2013” or “28 06 2013” respectively.
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) in Hong Kong noted the tainted formula first landed on retailers’ shelves in mid July. Over 80,000 cans have since left the wholesaler’s warehouse, of which 4,000 were re-exported to Macao. No statistic tracks how many were sold to customers.
Parents may call 3509 2000 or leave messages on the Facebook page of Cow & Gate for inquiries. The company said on its Facebook page that retailers will replace the tainted formula even if the formula is half consumed or without a receipt.
Cow & Gate apologized and stressed there has been no report of ill health linked to the contamination. The government also assured at Monday’s press briefing that the health risk for children aged 1 or above is low.
But Yau Yat- sun, a specialist of pediatric infectious diseases, said infants under 12 months old are subject to higher risk, as their immune systems cannot effectively kill the bacteria, which multiplies and produces high levels of toxins.
Early symptoms include diarrhea, drooping eyelids or difficulty in suckling milk bottles. In extreme cases, patients may suffer from paralysis, difficulty in breathing or even death. But Yau highlighted the affected formula was marketed to feed older toddlers.
The CFS has no plan to test all baby formula for the bacteria. Shirley Leung Sze-lee, assistant director of health, said as whey proteins are a raw material in a wide range of products, it is hard and not costefficient to “look for a needle in a haystack”.
The Department of Health has long encouraged parents to breastfeed. It also recommends infants of more than 12 months to slowly replace milk with a “good variety of solid foods” as the main source of nutrients. Leung said, however, parents do not have to push for a diet change for their children in light of the botulism contamination.
Journalists don’t want to let Theo Spierings go after the CEO of New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra held a news conference on its contaminated whey protein concentrate on Monday in Beijing. Chinese producers using the raw materials are recalling affected products.