Botulism milk powder scandal
On August 3, 2013, the world's biggest diary exporter Fonterra said a bacteria, Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism and affects muscles, had contaminated 40 tonnes of its whey protein, most of which was sold to manufacturers to make their own products, including milk powder. A day later, China banned all milk powder imports from New Zealand. Hong Kong recalled 80,000 cans of Cow & Gate baby formula. Other companies that were affected include Shanghai Yanjiu; Dumex Baby Food, a Danone brand; Wahaha Health Food and Wahaha Import & Export; Coca-Cola (China) and Abbott.
Pharmacy group to name 'unsafe' brands of milk powder
Pharmacy academy promises to list makers who fail to say if Fonterra supplied their ingredients
Natalie Wai and Lo Wei
Manufacturers of milk powder will be publicly named if they fail to identify their source of whey protein concentrate in 10 days, a local pharmacy group says.
The Academy of Pharmacy intends to compile a list of brands proven safe to consume, amid the discovery of bacteria in whey, an ingredient used in food and drinks, mostly dairy products.
At the centre of the contamination scare is New Zealand producer Fonterra, which supplies the ingredient to various formula brands. Fonterra said earlier that batches of its whey protein concentrate sold to eight food and animal feed manufacturers were tainted with the botulism-causing Clostridium botulinum, a potentially fatal bacteria that affects the muscles.
The academy said it was asking major producers to provide proof if they had not been using whey protein concentrate from Fonterra, the world's biggest dairy foods exporter.
"We are contacting the global headquarters and local general management of the manufacturers to urge them to give us a response," said Iris Chang Yee-man, the academy's specialist pharmacist in infectious disease. "We have the obligation to ensure the products are safe for the public."
The academy is an umbrella group of more than 100 local pharmacies and has no regulatory powers. It had contacted Cow & Gate, Wyeth, Mead Johnson, Friso, Nestle and Abbott, and would inform the public of which makers failed to respond.
Cow & Gate removed their product from Hong Kong shelves on Monday as a precaution. The next day, a dealer of the Karicare brand recalled its formula.
Cow & Gate said Fonterra did not meet its expectations in safety standards, but it would continue to work with the New Zealand company on quality standards to protect the interests of parents and infants.
Nestle said it was not affected by the incident, but declined to say if Fonterra was one of its suppliers. Wyeth Nutrition said Fonterra had confirmed that the brand had not been supplied with the affected material.
Abbott, in a precautionary move, recalled its formula on the mainland that was made using Fonterra ingredients. It said its Hong Kong products were not produced with those ingredients. Both Friso and Mead Johnson said their Hong Kong products did not use Fonterra ingredients.
While Fonterra has said the contamination was confined to three batches of whey protein sold to eight food and animal feed makers, Chang said she could not estimate the extent of the contamination, as many manufacturers used Fonterra's whey protein concentrate.
"In Hong Kong, parallel imports make up about half of the milk powder, and such products are riskier than [non-parallel imports]," said Kelvin Law Chun-Cheong, the academy's consultant pharmacist.