One of New Zealand’s most expensive exports, lactoferrin, which sells for about $500,000 a tonne, has been contaminated with melamine.
But food safety officials say they don’t know how the contamination occurred and are now looking at whether the melamine was in the raw milk.
The New Zealand Food Safety Authority thinks the contaminated lactoferrin might have come from more than one company. NZFSA direcctor of compliance and investigation Geoff Allen said:
“We’re still waiting for official results from all of the manufacturers of lactoferrin, so I can’t say which one is in and which one is out.”
Yesterday Mr Allen said the authority was considering any role which might have been played in the contamination by cyromazine, an insecticide which breaks down to melamine in mammals.
NZFSA has 24 livestock drenches and sprays containing cyromazine listed among registered agricultural compounds on its website.
“The possible contribution of breakdown products from cyromazine is being included in the investigations that are underway.’
Dr Allen had earlier confirmed that NZ lactoferrin sent to China had been contaminated with melamine. “Explanations for its presence in this case include leaching from plastic involved in processing or packaging, or other unintended outcome of the manufacturing process.”
. . . Dr Allen said the contamination was at low levels which did not present any health risk for consumers.
He questioned whether the melamine would be detectable once it was diluted when used as an ingredient in a finished product.
In June, NZFSA published a list of contaminant levels it will allow in animal products, and specified a maximum permissible level of cyromazine and melamine as 0.3mg/kg in sheepmeats, and 0.15mg/kg in poultry and eggs.
This is very different from the poisoned milk scandal in China but it is important that New Zealand food is checked to determine it contains nothing harmful.
The China melamine poisoning has raised awareness of what could be in food which is good as long as it doesn’t create needless hysteria over elements which won’t cause any harm.