Key Points:

Unacceptably high levels of melamine have been found in a Chinese milk sweet on sale in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority has issued a warning about the White Rabbit sweets, which the New Zealand Herald discovered on sale in Chinese supermarkets.

Testing found the presence of 180 ppm of melamine, the substance which has been implicated in the tainted baby milk powder scandal in China.

"This is a serious concern" said Sandra Daly, NZFSA's Deputy Chief Executive.

"We have issued a Director General's statement advising people not to eat these products as we cannot discount the likelihood of health risks resulting from the consumption of these sweets. The product appears to come from a number of manufacturers via a number of importers and we are advising against eating any of these products."

The Food Safety Authority has said that any parents worried about the sweets should contact their medical practitioner.

The Authority said in a statement that the Ministry of Health reportered no increase in the number of kidney problems in children in New Zealand.

"While the science on the presence of melamine is evolving it appears from the current Chinese situation that infants are affected by the presence of fairly low levels of melamine, it appears that older children or adults are not as susceptible."

White Rabbit Creamy Candy was found to be contaminated with melamine after tests in Singapore. The New Zealand Authority decided to test the products after the Herald found the same sweets on sale in Auckland.

China's tainted-milk scandal started after milk powder sold by various milk companies including New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra's Chinese partner San Lu was found to be contaminated with melamine, and has become a global food scare.

In China, four babies have died and nearly 13,00 have been hospitalised with kidney problems. Of these, China's health ministry says, 104 are in serious condition.

Hospitals throughout China had seen almost 40,000 infants and 1579 babies had been discharged, the ministry said.

The Food Safety Authority said today it was working with importers to ensure they are confident the products they sell meet all New Zealand food safety standards.

It has also asked the Customs Department to identify any products that might be risky coming from China. They will then be sampled and tested.

"Melamine is not an uncommon finding at low levels and we expect we may find other low levels that are not a health concern," said Ms Daly.

"But the levels we have found in these products are above a level that is acceptable and do raise potential health concerns so we have taken the action we needed to."

- New Zealand Herald