Japan's premier dairy foods company Snow Brand Milk Products, which spends $14 million annually buying cheese and milk concentrate from Fonterra, sought confirmation yesterday that none of its products came from San Lu or China.
Although it was not on the agenda at a meeting between the two companies yesterday at the Stamford Plaza in Auckland, Snow Brand general manager Ryoichi Sueyasu said the topic was raised.
"I asked about their situation in China, and was told by Fonterra that it was a China problem and the products we buy are coming straight from New Zealand," he said.
"We are happy with what we have been told by Fonterra and to continue to do business with them in the future."
Snow Brand is not new to a tainted milk crisis - the company had, in 2000, faced its own when 15,000 people came down with food poisoning after consuming milk or related products by the company.
That year, it reported a consolidated net loss of 52.9 billion yen ($748 million) resulting in the resignation of the then company president Tetsuro Ishikawa and seven other executives.
Fonterra's Japan representative, Takashi Hamajima, who was also at the meeting in central Auckland yesterday, denied the meeting with the Snow Brand executives, who had flown in from Japan, had anything to do with managing the tainted milk crisis in China.
The tainted milk has killed at least four babies and sickened about 54,000 others.
A Fonterra spokesman said: "It was one of our regular meetings with them and no it was not related to the San Lu crisis."
Meanwhile Tatua Co-operative Dairy Co says lactoferrin product containing melamine is safe but it is prudent to suspend exports.
Exports of lactoferrin - used in baby formula and nutraceutical drinks with a claim to boost the immune system - was worth up to $10 million a year to Morrinsville-based Tatua.
On September 17 a customer in China told a Tatua agent about the contamination and shipments were stopped.
Product was tested in China and New Zealand on September 18-19, with results on September 22-23 - when the New Zealand Food Safety Authority was informed.
Tatua chief executive Paul McGilvary said the products tested in New Zealand which were positive for melamine were less than four parts per million and within a new Food Safety Authority standard for dairy products of five parts per million.
"We know there's absolutely no health and safety issue with the product," McGilvary said.
"The Food Safety Authority's also come out and said they expect to find low levels of melamine in many food products."
The company was conducting a trace-back exercise to find the source of the melamine, which could be found in fertiliser, insecticide, plastics, glue and packaging material.
"I think we'd feel a whole lot more comfortable once we know what the source is because we can probably eliminate it."
Regulatory authorities were scrambling to set up melamine limits for dairy products, including 2.5 parts per million in Hong Kong and McGilvary understood the US was using 10 parts and China was thinking about five parts.
Tatua wanted to see how the regulatory requirements developed and to understand the needs of customers.
"We want to make sure that we don't export a product and inadvertently breach someone's regulation."
Chinese police have seized more than 220kg of melamine in raids of dairy farms and milk purchasing stations, detaining 22 people accused of involvement in a network which produced, sold and added melamine to milk, reported the official Xinhua news agency.
The scandal broke this month when the authorities said infant formula produced by San Lu, partly owned by Fonterra, contained melamine - an industrial chemical used to make plastics - and was causing kidney stones in babies.
At least 18 people have been arrested and more than two dozen suspects have been detained.
* Cadbury New Zealand says none of its chocolate sold here is made in China. Products are therefore unaffected by a recall of Cadbury Eclairs, which were manufactured in China and sold in Australia.