Another NZ dairy firm in China milk probe

Last updated 00:57 05/03/2009

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A New Zealand dairy company caught up in a safety probe involving milk products in China say the authorities' inquiries are "routine" and its ingredients are safe.

Chinese authorities are investigating the safety of an additive used in a premium brand of China's top milk producer Mengniu Dairy.

The additive, called osteoblast milk protein (OMP), uses ingredients imported from the Waikato-based Tatua Co-operative Dairy Company.

But Tatua chief executive Paul McGilvray said today said inquiries and additional testing were "routine" under the much tougher regime put in place since the deaths of at least six babies last year from the tainted milk scandal.

The babies died from drinking infant formula contaminated with melamine, a toxic industrial compound that can give a false positive on protein tests.

Milk company Sanlu, partially owned by New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra, was at the centre of the scandal.

Mr McGilvray said Tatua was "utterly confident" its products were completely safe and was unconcerned by the attention of the Chinese authorities.

He said he was aware some Chinese officials wanted to visit New Zealand to be shown through Tatua's production processes and they would be welcome to do so.

He said there may have been some extra focus on Tatua's ingredients due to well publicised tiny amounts of melamine – far below those found in products in the tainted milk scandal – found in some of the company's products.

The presence of the chemical was the product of a faulty filtration process, since been overhauled.

Meanwhile Mengniu, based in the northern Chinese region of Inner Mongolia, said it had done nothing wrong.

"A report by Inner Mongolian quality inspectors after a field trip clearly states the quality and safety of OMP," Mengniu said in a statement carried on the website of state news agency Xinhua.

The company said the raw ingredients for the OMP had passed customs' inspections.

China's national quality watchdog said it was investigating the safety of dairy products made by Mengniu and Dumex, a unit of France's Danone.

The watchdog did not say whether it had ordered Mengniu to stop adding OMP and a spokesman declined to comment on the issue.

Hong Kong-listed shares of Mengniu slid 22 percent on Wednesday before closing down 12.48 percent.

Mengniu was among several firms in China found to have produced melamine-contaminated milk.

A Dumex spokesman said it had tested its products and there were no problems.

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The melamine incident was the latest in a string of food safety failures that have blighted the "made in China" brand.

- NZPA

 

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