Importers recall tainted NZ milk powder

Updated: 2013-08-05 10:58


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BEIJING -- China's importers on Sunday began to recall and seal products produced by New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra due to safety concerns over its allegedly contaminated whey protein that could cause botulism.

The recall began after the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) announced a list of four domestic companies that have imported whey products that may be contaminated with clostridium botulinum.

Fonterra said Friday that some of its whey protein produced in May 2012 was found to be contaminated with the toxic bacteria.

The four importers are China's biggest food and beverage firms Hangzhou Wahaha Health Food Co Ltd, Hangzhou Wahaha Import & Export Co Ltd, Shanghai Tangjiu (Group) Co Ltd and Shanghai-based Dumex Baby Food Co Ltd, according to AQSIQ.

Baby formula maker Dumex said it is sealing imported Fonterra products and recalling two of its branded formula products that were made with the whey protein.

Dumex has produced 726.55 tons of its own milk powder products with the potentially tainted materials and 420.19 tons have already been sold in China's domestic market, the watchdog authorities said.

Among the seven batches weighing 208.55 tons of problematic products which Dumex purchased from Fonterra, 105.45 tons have been used for producing baby formula products,said Shanghai's municipal quality inspection authorities late Sunday.

Quality inspectors in Shanghai have demanded Dumex recall the relevant products and track down its sales records.

On Sunday afternoon, relevant products of Dumex were removed from shelves in many supermarkets in Shanghai.

Zhu Yi, associate professor in food science and nutrition at China Agricultural University, said clostridium botulinum can grow in canned food which is inappropriately processed, packaged or stored, thus posing a big threat to babies aged below one year.

Clostridium botulinum bacteria produce toxins and can cause botulism, a rare but potentially life-threatening illness. Symptoms of botulism include nausea, vomiting, drooping eyelids, difficult swallowing and paralysis.

The Wahaha Group, which owns two of the companies in question, has initiated recalls for affected products despite finding no signs of contamination in them, said the group's chairman Zong Qinghou.

The company imported from Fonterra about 14.5 tons of whey protein produced in May 2012 to process its dairy products, including its popular Nutri-Express drink, according to Zong.

The products hit shelves in October 2012 and the company is working to recall any unsold items.

Shanghai Tangjiu, a Chinese agent for Fonterra products, said in a statement that it had imported 4.8 tons of affected whey protein before selling them to the Shanghai branch of Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola confirmed the news in a statement, which said 4.77 tons of the ingredient had been sealed. The remaining whey protein was used to produce milk beverages that are now being recalled.

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