Fonterra presented with another melamine scare

Posted by James Ferre on 23rd February 2009

The world’s largest dairy exporter has been presented with another melamine scare, though unlike the tragic Chinese scandal last year the issue appears to be under control.

Fonterra announced on Saturday that one of its suppliers, a German based company called Budenheim, had advised Fonterra that an iron supplement Budenheim supplies to food companies around the world had tested positive for melamine. Fonterra uses very small quantities of the iron supplement in 12 fortified whole milk powder products.

Fonterra added they had immediately stopped all production using the supplement and was sourcing a replacement product. In addition, as an added precaution Fonterra had undertaken extensive retesting of retention samples of the affected batches of Fonterra’s milk powder products.

No melamine was detected in any of its products.

Fonterra is currently working with the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) and progressively reviewing each batch of product to ensure that the product is safe to go to market.

Extensive and intensive research has been undertaken throughout the world to determine appropriate food safety levels for melamine in the wake of the Chinese dairy contamination last year, which led to at least 6 infant deaths and over 300,000 illnesses. Fonterra was implicated by being a major stakeholder in Sanlu, the company at the centre of the scandal, although Fonterra has reported they were unaware of, and shocked by, the criminal actions of certain Sanlu managers. The products currently in question are all well within New Zealand, Australian, European and American safety standards.

“Based on all current world standards there is absolutely no health risks to consumers,” Group Director Manufacturing and Supply Chain, Gary Romano, advised. “Budenheim advised us last week that testing of the iron supplement, called Ferric Pyrophosphate, had detected melamine levels above the regulatory limit. The product is commonly used to provide additional nutritional value in food.”

“The New Zealand Food Safety Authority guidelines for these products is 2.5 parts per million, and the Authority regards any concentration below 0.1 parts per million as a negative result,” he noted.

Fonterra has calculated that, given the small amount of iron supplement used in some of its products, if melamine was present in the finished product it would be at levels 50 – 100 times lower than the NZFSA guideline.

Budenheim supplies Ferric Pyrophosphate to a number of food companies around the world. The iron supplement helps the development of red blood cells.

Budenheim is supplying Fonterra with a new iron supplement product which has tested negative for melamine and no further production of the relevant WMP will be undertaken until the new iron supplement is received, Fonterra reported.