China clears milk products, accepts NZ Food Safety certification

Source of Article:

Mon, 16 Feb 2009 8:58p.m.

China's health ministry has found a New Zealand protein additive used by one of its top milk producers poses no public health risk.

Authorities investigated the safety of a high-tech milk additive used by Mengniu Dairy Group Co, a major Chinese producer.

Osteoblast milk protein (OMP) - which claimed to aid the absorption of calcium and promote bone growth - was made by the Waikato-based Tatua Cooperative Dairy Company.

But the official Xinhua news agency reported Mengniu could still face punishment for using OMP as an additive in its milk, as it was not yet listed in China as a legal food additive.

"Law enforcement and inspection departments will further deal with the illegal actions of Mengniu," the health ministry said, without giving any details.

It said the company had stopped using OMP and was in the process of getting official approval.

Mengniu issued a statement last week saying the protein had been well-researched internationally and widely used for many years.

Today, Xinhua reported OMP had a safety certification from the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA).

"We can breathe a sigh of relief now," said Yang Wenjun, vice president of Mengniu Dairy at a news conference held on Saturday.

The Mengniu group described OMP as a "common food material" used in overseas markets and said it has been used in milk products in Japan, the United States, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan.

After China launched its investigation, the company stopped using OMP and said it would apply for state approval accordingly.

"We will not call back products already sold on market as it's not a quality issue," said Mr Yang.

Mengniu launched the production line Milk Deluxe with OMP in 2005, with a marketing claim the additive helped improve human health.

Tatua chief executive Paul McGilvray said last week Tatua was "utterly confident" its products were completely safe and was unconcerned by the attention of the Chinese authorities.

He said additional testing was "routine" under the much tougher regime put in place since the deaths of at least six babies last year from the melamine milk scandal which bankrupted Fonterra's joint venture, Sanlu Group.




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