Fonterra defends its quality testing on 42 tonnes of milk powder that was stopped in China last May for having excessive nitrate levels, says failed Chinese tests was example of border testing working well

WELLINGTON, New Zealand , August 22, 2013 () – New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra already dealing with the fallout from its botulism contamination crisis Thursday defended its quality testing on a batch of milk powder that was stopped in China for having excessive nitrate levels.

The 42 tonnes of Fonterra milk powder that failed Chinese tests in May was an example of border testing working well, said Fonterra group director of food safety and quality Ian Palliser.

"The product was tested before leaving New Zealand and met specifications. It was then shipped to China, where local tests showed it no longer met specifications. The product was immediately put on hold and regulators in both China and New Zealand were informed," Palliser said in a statement.

"There are times when test findings differ between country of origin and country of destination. This can be due to a variety of reasons, including changes in product conditions during shipment, and different laboratories and testing methodologies," he said.

"The product remained 100 percent within Fonterra's control, did not enter the Chinese market, and there was no food safety risk involved."

Earlier Thursday, Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings said the cooperative would step up quality checks at its plants after two international food safety alerts involving its products were revealed this month.

Spierings said extra quality assurance was "the right thing to do," particularly because the plants made ingredients or products consumed by infants and very young children.

"Fonterra will check, double check and triple check, if necessary," Spierings said in a statement.

The pledge followed the discovery of a bacterium that can cause botulism in whey protein concentrate produced at Fonterra's North Island Hautapu plant in May last year, although it was only made public early this month.

His comments followed a commitment this week by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) to step up regulatory oversight of New Zealand's dairy industry, pending the result of investigation by MPI into the causes and handling of the botulism contamination crisis.

Lactoferrin made by rival New Zealand firm Westland Milk Products was also the subject of a recall in China this month for having excessive nitrate levels.

(c) 2013 Xinhua News Agency

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