Tainted infant milk formula seized from Saudi market

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The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has seized bacteria-tainted Similac Gain Plus infant milk formula from the shelves during its market inspections, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday.

Inspections were carried out after the ministry received calls from citizens that tainted products were being sold at several places.

The ministry said that these contaminated products were leaked to the market by authorized agents.

It urged citizens and expatriates to call 8001241616 if they find products on the shelves bearing the batch numbers released by the ministry a few days ago and updated on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) and the Customs Department at Jeddah Islamic Port announced that they were preparing to destroy 4,989 cans of Similac Gain Plus infant milk powder of 400, 900 and 1700 grams which are feared to be tainted with a bacteria that causes botulism.

Executive Director of the Early Warning Center at the SFDA Dr. Muhammad Ahmad Al-Kanhal told Okaz/Saudi Gazette that two shipments that arrived in two batches earlier have been impounded at Jeddah Islamic Port. They were divided into nine consignments for distribution.

The SFDA assured consumers on Monday that dairy products from New Zealand tainted with the bacteria that could lead to botulism, a potentially fatal illness, had not been cleared for sale in the local market.

The SFDA said that its Early Warning Center on Friday received from the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) of the World Health Organization (WHO) a notification which stated that some batches of the milk powder Similac Gain Plus for children aged 1-3 years produced by New Zealand dairy company Fonterra for Abbott were contaminated as a result of the use of the tainted whey protein concentrate.

Ironically, New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra moved to assure parents on Wednesday that tainted baby formula which sparked global safety recalls had all been removed from retailer’s shelves.

Products containing the potentially deadly bug which had been distributed from China to Saudi Arabia were no longer in the shops, Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings claimed.

“All the stocks have been contained, everything is out of the market. It’s in warehouses and there is little or no more risk for consumers,” he told reporters in Auckland.

Authorities have been scrambling to collect cans of formula since Fonterra revealed last Saturday that they contained a whey product contaminated with a bacteria that can cause botulism.

Earlier, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said it would be wrong to downplay the impact of the saga on New Zealand, which generates 25 percent of its exports from dairy products.

“I’ve read some interesting comments in the last 24 hours, people saying it’s not as big as you think, well I beg to differ, it’s very significant,” he told Radio New Zealand.

While the company has insisted from the outset that public health is its main priority, Prime Minister John Key is among those who have accused it of being too slow to release information.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.

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