2 Oct 2008

South Korea finds melamine in NZ product

4:05 pm on 2 October 2008

South Korean authorities have found trace amounts of melamine in milk products imported from New Zealand that were used in baby formula and banned their import, its food safety agency said on Thursday.

The Korea Food and Drug Administration said the product, lactoferrin, was produced by Tatua Cooperative Diary Company of New Zealand.

South Korea was banning all other products made by the company pending further tests, it said.

No trace of the chemical has been found in 19 baby formula products tested, presumably because the additive makes up less than 0.1% of the final product, the agency said.

No comment was immediately available from Tauta, which on Monday had suspended exports of lactoferrin because of the melamine discovery.

The company was also checking where its product had been exported to and trying to trace the source of the melamine contamination.

Tauta chief executive Paul McGilvary said the New Zealand Food Safety Authority had found fewer than four parts per million of melamine in the Tatua product, and found there was no contamination of the company's milk supply.

South Korea has banned the imports of Chinese milk powder and rice cookies produced in China. It has also recalled tainted products from store shelves.

A growing list of Chinese milk and milk-related products have been taken off shelves around the world in recent weeks after they have been found to be contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine. Four children have died and more than 63,000 have been made ill.

The scandal first came to light in September when tainted baby formula was discovered in products made by Chinese company Sanlu Group, which is 43% owned by New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra.

Twenty-two companies in China have since been implicated.

Sanlu 'sought help' over media

Sanlu has asked the Chinese government for help to cope with media inquires over the tainted milk scandal, the BBC reports.

According to China's People's Daily, Sanlu reported the problem to the city government on 2 August. It asked for help to increase control and coordination of the media, as the report put it, to avoid any negative reporting.

Media control was increased, but one journalist decided to risk his career by naming the Sanlu Group in his report.

However, as the scandal widens, with many countries banning Chinese produced dairy products, some are asking whether revelations of a provincial cover-up is an attempt to shift blame from senior officials in Beijing.