New Zealand revokes export certificates for China-bound high-nitrate dairy products

WELLINGTON (REUTERS) - New Zealand's agricultural regulator said on Monday it has revoked export certificates for four China-bound consignments of lactoferrin manufactured by Westland Milk Products after higher-than-acceptable nitrate levels were found.

The consignments were derived from two affected batches of lactoferrin, a naturally occurring protein found in milk, manufactured by Westland at its Hokitika factory on the country's South Island, the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) said in a statement.

One batch was exported directly to China as an ingredient for other dairy products by Westland. The second batch was supplied to New Zealand's Tatua Co-operative Dairy Company, and also exported to China.

The MPI said almost all of the affected products were confirmed as detained in the supply chain. There was no affected lactoferrin used in products in New Zealand.

"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 in a statement.

"MPI, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the companies concerned are working closely with the Chinese authorities on this issue."

The announcement comes after its much bigger competitor, Fonterra, the world's largest dairy exporter, earlier this month said some of its dairy ingredients were contaminated with a botulism-causing bacteria.

This prompted a recall of infant formula products, sports drinks and other products in China, New Zealand and other Asia-Pacific nations.