NZ withdraws certification for Westland Milk product shipped to China after nitrates found

MPI acting director-general Scott Gallacher

New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries has revoked export certificates for four consignments of lactoferrin made by Westland Milk Products after unacceptable levels of nitrates were found in two batches.

One batch was exported directly to China and a second was supplied to Tatua Cooperative Dairy Co before being shipped to China, the department said.

The nitrate tainted milk is the latest blow for New Zealand's dairy industry trying to contain the fallout from Fonterra's contaminated milk scare last month, sparked by the discovery of bacteria that can cause botulism. MPI acting director-general Scott Gallacher said his department, foreign ministry officials and the companies are "working closely with the Chinese authorities on this issue."

Gallacher said export certificates had originally been issued "based on testing of composited batches undertaken at the time of manufacturing, which showed no issue."

"We now know that is not the case and certification has been withdrawn," he said. "MPI has been advised by Westland, Tatua and their customers that a small proportion of the lactoferrin was used in consumer products. Almost all of these products are now confirmed as detained in the supply chain."

None of the lactoferrin was used in New Zealand products, he said. The food safety risk for Chinese consumers was "negligible because of the quantities of lactoferrin used in consumer products was very small."

MPI has sent a team to the Hokitika factory to look into the contamination arose and to ensure it is just limited to the two identified batches. Westland chief executive Rod Quin said 390 kilograms of product was affected.

The two batches had nitrate levels of 610 and 2,198 parts per million, exceeding New Zealand's limit of 150 parts per million.

Earlier today, Fonterra denied claims in Sri Lanka that its products contain traces of a nitrate inhibitor known as DCD. The world's biggest dairy exporter was served with a 14-day ban in Sri Lanka after that nation's National Health Services Union won a temporary injunction to stop the sales.

DCD, or dicyandiamide, was found in some of Fonterra's milk powder last year which led to the voluntary withdrawal of fertilisers using DCD.

Early this month, Fonterra revealed it had discovered bacteria that can cause botulism in 38 metric tonnes of whey protein concentrate (WPC80) manufactured at its Hautapu plant near Cambridge and first picked up at a plant in Australia. It was used in the manufacture of infant formula, juice and dairy beverages, yoghurt, body building powder, and animal stock food.


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Warning bells must be going off in Govt circles, and if not they should be.

One mistake you can understand, two becomes a concern, three and you just know that good things don't come in threes. Now more dodging food products are certified as OK, then found to be not OK. We (that is NZ Food Export Inc) have a problem, good businesses are built on Trust, Great Products, Great Delivery and an unmatched Value proposition.

Our customers will be starting to feel their trust is not warranted. Do not get me wrong, I want the Government and Industry to move heaven and earth to address the issue, that is .......true Quality Systems Ensure that defective products do not leave the factory door, end of story. No ifs buts or maybes.

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A urgent review of food safety systems over Synlait, Tatua, Westland and Open Country should take place at the same time as the Fonterra enquiry. This shouldnt be a government led enquiry but a practical review led by food scientists and perhaps including Sir Peter Gluckman.

As a country we have put too many eggs into the dairy basket. That basket looks like it is wearing thin and breaking and then the eggs will follow suit. As a country we cannot afford another scandel and the government needs to be fast and firm in taking positive action in this industry, and the industry processors need to ensure that they come up with higher standards and processes to ensure that further problems dont occur.

Farmers should be diversifying away from dairy with speed because the next few years wont offer the same upside, and possibly significant downside. I cant help but think that farmers should consider planting some crops for a couple of years as a plan B.

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