EU confident over melamine dairy protection

By Neil Merrett

22-Sep-2008 –

Source of Article:  http://www.dairyreporter.com/Safety-Hygiene/EU-confident-over-melamine-dairy-protection

 

As some of the world’s leading dairy groups attempt to play down their potential involvement in the Chinese melamine scandal, the European Commission says that its existing import rules on the country’s dairy goods remain sufficient.

News reports have claimed that a number of countries across Asia, and even the US, have either banned or are stepping up monitoring of China-sourced dairy products from yoghurts to ice cream over fears they could contain milk contaminated with the chemical.

Final product vigilance

Amidst these concerns, a spokesperson for the European Commission told DairyReporter.com that imports of Chinese milk and other dairy products were not allowed into the bloc due to their lack of an approved residue by the country’s authorities.

The spokesperson claimed that under these regulations, no infant milk powders were presently on the European market, though still it called for vigilance amongst finished product companies.

“With regard to composite products containing milk derived products, it is the responsibility of the food business operators to guarantee the safety of all ingredients and of member states to control,” stated the Commission.

Over the weekend both Nestle and Arla Foods, two of the bloc’s major players in dairy goods manufacture, played up their quality control measures employed through their Chinese joint ventures, in a bid to prevent the chemical appearing in the food chain.

Melamine fears

The melamine scandal, which has now been linked to kidney problems in thousands of Chinese children, is alleged to involve a number of dairy groups operating in China, such as Sanlu and Arla Mengniu.

Melamine is a chemical that can make it appear there is more protein in a product, and has been linked to causing kidney stones and other health problems.

Sanlu, itself owned partly by New Zealand-based giant Fonterra, says it had purchased the contaminated milk from third-party suppliers, with neither Sanlu or Fonterra employees though to be involved.

Other companies linked to involvement in the contamination have attempted to distance themselves from the scandal though.

Company testing

Nestle itself has actively denied allegations emerging in Honk Kong that samples of its growing up milk had tested positive for traces of the chemical.

The company claimed that it was confident that its product sold on the Chinese market were melamine free, citing Hong Kong health official’s testing that found its Neslac Gold 1+ did not pose a health risk linked to the chemical.

“In general terms, melamine is found throughout the food chain across the world in minute traces which do not represent any health risk for consumers,” the company stated. “There is a generally accepted tolerable daily intake of melamine in food in the EU (0.5mg/kg of body weight/day) and in the US (0.63mg/kg of body weight/day).”

Nestle claimed that as part of its general practice, more than 70 safety tests are carried out on infant formula and milk products as a matter of routine.

Arla Foods meanwhile, said that it had itself called for a temporary halt to production facilities related to its joint venture with Mengniu last week, along with removing a ‘limited’ batch of products from shelves.

The company added that it was sending analyzing equipment like those used in its European operations to its Mengniu joint venture operations before it would again start up production in China in a bid to quell consumer fears.

“The milk is tested for many of the same properties that Arla Foods tests for in Denmark and Sweden – fat, protein and antibiotics,” the company said in a statement. “So far, milk has not been tested for melamine, but testing will begin when production starts up again.”

US fears

As within the EU, US Authorities have also stressed their belief that no contaminated milk powders are currently thought to be on the market, though it was stepping up its own monitoring precautions, the Associated Press reported.

Over the weekend, The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alert warning against purchasing milk products from online, the report stated.

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