New Zealand said it detected another case of tainted milk protein being exported to China, just weeks after a botulism scare endangered trade ties with its biggest dairy customer.
Two batches of milk protein exported to China contained levels of nitrate that exceeded the New Zealand standard, the Ministry for Primary Industries said in a statement today. It has revoked export certificates for four consignments of lactoferrin manufactured by Westland Milk Products that were derived from the two batches.
“One batch was exported directly to China as an ingredient for other dairy products by Westland, and the second batch was supplied to Tatua Co-operative Dairy Co., and also exported to China,” the ministry said. “Any food safety risk to Chinese consumers is negligible because the quantities of lactoferrin used in consumer products was very small, meaning the nitrate levels in those products would easily be within acceptable levels.”
China stopped importing some New Zealand dairy products earlier this month after Fonterra Cooperative Group Ltd. identified a potentially contaminated whey protein that could cause botulism. Russia and Sri Lanka have also banned some Fonterra products as a result of the contamination.
Westland said today it appeared traces of cleaning products were not adequately flushed at its lactoferrin plant at Hokitika, on the South Island west coast, prior to a new run of product. The ministry has sent a team to the site.
A total of 390 kilograms (860 pounds) of lactoferrin showed nitrate levels of 610 and 2198 parts per million respectively, it said, adding all of it had been sent to China. The New Zealand maximum limit for nitrates is 150 parts per million.
“We immediately initiated a process to find and quarantine all of the product and it has been put on hold,” Westland Chief Executive Officer Rod Quin said in a statement. “Food safety is not the issue in this instance because lactoferrin is used as a very minor ingredient in food products. Even if the lactoferrin with elevated nitrates had been added to food, the retail products would still have nitrate levels significantly below allowed limits.”
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