( dpa ) - New Zealand farmer co-operative Fonterra said Friday that it was in constant contact with its partner company in China, where babies have been hospitalized with kidney stones after drinking a milk-based formula.
The world's biggest single exporter of dairy products, Fonterra owns 43 per cent of the Shijiazhuang Sanlu Dairy Group and has three directors on the Chinese firm's board, and said the company was working closely with Chinese authorities to resolve the situation.
"Anything to do with potential food safety is a real concern to us," a Fonterra spokesman said. "Our first priority has to be the health and well being of consumers."
He said that Sanlu had advised that it was taking all appropriate measures to ensure their products were safe.
The Fonterra spokesman said that Sanlu had recently bought New Zealand milk powder from the cooperative: "We are 100-per-cent confident that there are no quality issues with that Fonterra milk powder."
The state-owned Xinhua news agency reported that an unknown number of infants in at least seven provinces and regions had developed kidney stones after drinking milk formula marked Sanlu, which their parents, mostly from poor rural areas, had bought at much cheaper prices than usual.
The agency quoted Sanlu as saying that the milk powder involved may have been a counterfeit of its product.
The China Daily newspaper recalled that in 2004, 13 infants in Anhui province died of malnutrition and 171 others were hospitalized after consuming sub-standard milk powder that was falsely labelled as being made by Sanlu.
Some officials and shopkeepers involved in the scam were reportedly jailed.