A Waikato dairy company dragged into a new export-product alert, which is sparking another wave of alarm in China, says a regulatory shakeup is coming for the New Zealand dairy industry.
Tatua Co-operative Dairy has found itself embroiled in the fallout from the announcement that some lactoferrin product from Westland Milk Products was found by a Chinese customer to contain elevated levels of a cleaning fluid. Tatua had bought a batch of the lactoferrin and sold it to a Chinese customer.
The batches, totalling 390 kilograms, have been quarantined in Chinese warehouses and did not reach shop shelves. No New Zealand products are involved.
Lactoferrin is used in a range of food products, including baby formula and yoghurt.
Westland said the levels were not a food-safety issue.
But yesterday Chinese social media and news reports were abuzz with the announcement, which came two weeks after New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra threw the highly sensitive Asian market and Kiwi parents into a panic when it admitted a whey protein used in baby formula could contain bacteria that could cause botulism. That product has been contained after major recalls.
Tatua chief executive Paul McGilvary said his specialist product company was "surprised and disappointed" to be advised of the alert on Friday afternoon. Westland was informed of the discovery by its Chinese distributor on August 1 and told the Ministry for Primary Industries the next day.
Tracking, quarantining and testing had delayed the announcement, Westland chief executive Rod Quin has said.
Mr McGilvary said the time lag was "perhaps a little long".
He was in no doubt "things are going to change" with the ministry likely to regulate for more testing.
China and New Zealand have a free-trade agreement, and Chinese market commentators believe that, after the botulism scare and the Fonterra DCD nitrate inhibitor residues alert in January, the Chinese Government will demand the New Zealand processing industry be regulated.
Tatua had not tested the Westland lactoferrin itself because "they make the product under the same rules [as us] in the same country", Mr McGilvary said.
Westland said the elevated cleaning-fluid levels had been traced to a flushing-out fault in an automatic cleaning device and had been fixed.
Mr Quin said the levels were not picked up in Westland's testing because it used a composite test across several days of lactoferrin production. The Chinese customer had tested a single item. Westland now tests single productions.
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