China steps up warning over NZ milk scare

BEIJING (AFP) - China stepped up warnings to consumers on Monday over a botulism scare involving products from a New Zealand dairy company, and has demanded affected importers check their sales records.

The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) said it was "warning consumers" following an alert over a bacteria that could lead to the potentially fatal illness.

Fonterra, one of New Zealand's biggest dairy exporters, said three batches of whey product - which is used to make infant formula and sports drinks - had been found to contain the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which can lead to botulism.

Quality inspectors in Shanghai have ordered baby formula firm Dumex, one of three Chinese companies said to have used the potentially tainted materials, to "track down its sales records", state media reported late Sunday.

In a statement on its website, AQSIQ also called on the New Zealand government to "take effective measures" to ensure the safety of dairy products exported to China following the scare.

Dumex has produced 726 tonnes of its own milk powder products with the Fonterra materials and 420 tonnes have already been sold in China's domestic market, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing statistics from authorities.

The other two companies ordered by China's Food and Drug Administration to stop selling products containing questionable ingredients were Hangzhou Wahaha and Coca-Cola's Chinese subsidiary.

Wahaha said that it had used the Fonterra ingredients in soft drinks and had not detected any bacteria. "The products we made have sold out and we haven't found any food safety problems," it said in a statement.

Coca-Cola said in a statement it had used 25 kilograms of the affected powder for its Minute Maid drinks but the "super high temperature" used in production meant it would be safe to consume, but the firm added that it was nevertheless recalling the affected products.

About 95 percent of China's milk powder imports in January-March came from New Zealand, up by a third on the same period in 2012, a government website reported in April.

Demand for foreign supplies of baby formula has surged since 2008 when milk tainted with the chemical melamine left six children dead and more than 300,000 sick.

There have been no reports of any illness linked to consumption of the affected Fonterra product, which was made in May 2012, although the contamination was only confirmed last week.

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