Botulism milk powder scandal

China bars powdered milk from NZ in botulism scare

Imports from New Zealand dairy giant halted after products used by mainland companies were found to be contaminated with bacteria

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 6:18pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

Beijing has halted all milk powder imports from New Zealand after several major drinks and baby formula companies were found to have used products contaminated with bacteria that could cause botulism.

The products were manufactured by Fonterra, the world's biggest dairy exporter.

Trade minister Tim Groser told Television New Zealand that Chinese authorities had imposed the ban on all milk powder products from the country, including those shipped through Australia.

He said the action was "absolutely appropriate".

"It's better to do blanket protection for your people and then wind it back when we … are in a position to give them the confidence and advice that they need before doing that," Groser said.

The ban was not officially announced by Chinese authorities. Inquiries to the Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine were not answered yesterday.

China is the largest importer of dairy products from New Zealand, with 80 per cent of China's imported milk powder from the country, Xinhua reported.

Professor Wei Ronglu , with the Western Dairy Development Association, said the ban would not have a significant effect on the mainland's dairy industry, as similar products could be imported from Europe.

Fonterra said on Friday that three batches of its whey protein had been contaminated with clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism and affects the muscles. In serious cases, it can cause respiratory failure.

About 40 tonnes of the Fonterra products were sold to three Chinese clients. China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said four domestic companies may have been affected.

They are Shanghai Yanjiu; Dumex Baby Food, a Danone brand; and Wahaha Health Food and Wahaha Import & Export, both of which are under the Chinese food and beverage giant Hangzhou Wahaha.

Representatives from Dumex, Hangzhou Wahaha Health Food and Coca-Cola (China), which had purchased some of the imported whey protein from Shanghai Yanjiu, were summoned yesterday to meet the State Food and Drug Administration.

The watchdog urged them to stop sales of such products and to recall all goods produced using potentially tainted materials.

Dumex, which imported 209 tonnes of whey protein from Fonterra, said 12 batches of baby formula were produced from the problematic raw material, amounting to 664 tonnes.

It said some of products had not been distributed, while those that had been distributed - about 420 tonnes - would be recalled and destroyed.

Coca-Cola (China) said that nearly five tonnes of imported whey protein had been safety quarantined and that 25kg had been used to produce bottled Minute Maid fruit milk.

Coca-Cola is tracking the production and distribution records of affected products for recall. But it said the production process ensured safety, as it involved high-temperature sterilisation.

Agence France-Presse, Reuters