Synlait parent in Chinese tainted milk scare

02:37, Jun 29 2012

A food safety scare resulting in the recalling of tainted milk in China has been traced to Shanghai company Bright Dairy & Food Co which owns 51 per cent of Canterbury milk processor Synlait.

Bright Dairy had to recall milk cartons this week after detergent found its way into the company's Ubest fresh milk, according to reports by The Wall Street Journal, China and other web news sites.

The detergent was being used to clean equipment and about 300 cartons of 950-millilitre Ubest milk were affected. The cartons have been pulled from shelves.

Synlait chief executive John Penno said Synlait had been informed of ''the issue''.

''Our only comment would be Bright has an extremely good reputation in the Chinese market. They are taking the matter very seriously and working with authorities and investigating it. We don't know more than that.''

He would not be drawn if the recall would harm Synlait's reputation.

During the 2010 announcement of the partnership between Bright Dairy Co and Synlait, vice-president and marketing director Li Ke said the company settled on Synlait because it demonstrated good processes and management and had a good source of milk.

The Chinese dairy giant is majority owned by Bright Food Group with its principal shareholder is the Shanghai municipal government. It invested $82m into Synlait for 51 per cent ownership.

Synlait milk is processed at its Dunsandel site and is made into milk powder before being exported.

While embarrassing for the Chinese milk market, which has suffered other food scares, this incident cannot be compared to the melamine scandal when SanLu was among dairy company's caught selling milk tainted with melamine to restore protein levels after water had been added.

That resulted in thousands of children becoming sick and some dying. It forced owners Fonterra, cleared of blame, to close the factory at great expense.

Synlait is expected to put out a release on behalf of Bright Dairy within the hour.