MPI revokes export certificates for 4 Westland dairy consignments

The Ministry of Primary Industries has revoked export certificates for four consignments of lactoferrin manufactured by Westland Milk Products following the detection of levels of nitrate that exceed the New Zealand standard.

 Lactoferrin is a naturally occurring protein found in milk. The consignments were derived from two affected batches of lactoferrin manufactured by Westland at its Hokitika factory. One batch was exported directly to China as an ingredient for other dairy products by Westland, and the second batch was supplied to Tatua Co-operative Dairy Company, and also exported to China.

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. There was no affected lactoferrin used in products in New Zealand.

“MPI’s technical experts have looked closely at this issue and believe any food safety risk to Chinese consumers is negligible because the quantities of lactoferrin used in consumer products was very small, meaning the nitrate levels in those products would easily be within acceptable levels”, MPI acting director-general Scott Gallacher said.

“MPI, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the companies concerned are working closely with the Chinese authorities on this issue,” MPI acting director-general Scott Gallacher said.

“MPI has sent a team to the Hokitika factory to confirm how this problem arose, and verify the problem is limited to just the two batches identified. It appears to be so, at this time.”

“The consignments exported to China were accompanied by official export certificates stating that the product complies with New Zealand and China’s regulatory requirements.  This was 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 We now know that is not the case and certification has been withdrawn,” Mr Gallacher said.

This isn’t good timing, coming so soon after the precautionary recall of some products which used Fonterra’s  whey protein concentrate.

But it’s important to keep it in perspective.

The affected product has been identified, almost all of it has been contained and there is no food safety issue.

But it will add to perceptions that our quality standards aren’t as high as we boast and put another dent in our reputation for food safety.

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