Safety alert prompts checks of NZ baby formula
The China Post news staffTAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Department of Health (DOH) will conduct random checks on shipments of infant milk powder products from New Zealand to see if dairy products from that country that are tainted with a potentially hazardous substance have entered the island, DOH officials said yesterday.
January 27, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
Kang Jao-jou, director general of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), made the remarks at a press conference held yesterday. Kang was responding to a Wall Street Journal report on Thursday that claimed low levels of dicyandiamide (DCD) had been found on some New Zealand pastures and that two major New Zealand fertilizer makers, Ravensdown Ltd. and Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd., had suspended sales of DCD as a result.
Farmers tend to apply DCD to pastures to prevent nitrates, a fertilizer byproduct that can cause health problems, from getting into rivers and lakes. But the New Zealand government released data showing that there are only 500 pastures in the country using fertilizers that contain DCD, accounting for less than 5 percent of New Zealand's over 10,000 pastures, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Kang said that the DOH has asked importers to check whether their imports of dairy products were sourced from the 500 pastures in question and required them to submit reports to the DOH on Jan. 28 at the earliest.
At the press conference, Tsai Shu-jen, a section chief at the FDA, said that the checks are needed because infants are the main consumers of milk powder products imported from New Zealand.
Tsai said the New Zealand government had stated that DCD is a substance with low toxicity and that New Zealand dairy products had not been recalled at home or in neighboring countries. Toxicology experts in Taiwan, however, have warned of health dangers that could arise from long-term consumption of DCD.
Lin Chieh-liang, a toxicologist at Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, said Friday that DCD is not a carcinogen and that occasional consumption is not likely to affect human health but long-term consumption could cause uremia, a toxic condition resulting from kidney disease.
Lin continued that there are no international standards for an acceptable level of DCD in food products, but high doses of the substance are toxic to humans.
Government statistics showed that in 2012, New Zealand supplied up to 79 percent of Taiwan's total imports of adult powdered milk products and 21.7 percent of the island's total infant milk formula imports.
From 2011 to the end of 2012, dairy imports, including powered milk, infant milk powder and cream cheese, from New Zealand accounted for 43.07 percent of Taiwan's aggregate imported dairy products, the same tallies indicated.
In related news, major local hypermarket chains, such as RT-Mart, Carrefour, and A-mart, said they already asked their dairy products suppliers to offer information to clarify any food-safety concerns.