Vietnam recalls infant formula after New Zealand botulism warning

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Abbott's Similac infant formula in Vietnam could contain botulism-tainted whey protein imported from New Zealand. Photo by Vietnam's Food Safety Department

Vietnamese health authorities have ordered the recall of a New Zealand-made infant formula after that country issued a global warning that it might contain bacteria that can cause the deadly botulism.

The Food Safety Department Saturday ordered Abbott Vietnam to stop distributing Similac GainPlus Eye-Q for children between one and three years old from 10 lots that were imported between June 17 and July 3, and remove them from shop shelves.

Earlier the department received a warning that whey protein concentrate, the cheapest and most common form of whey protein, produced by New Zealand-based Fonterra could be contaminated with clostridium botulinum.

The whey concentrate has been exported to eight customers in Vietnam, Australia, China, Malaysia, Thailand, and Saudi Arabia for making infant formula among other products.

Fonterra had reported to New Zealand authorities after suspecting that a batch of whey contained the bacterium.

The Vietnamese agency also warned about Karicare formula products made by New Zealand's Nutricia company using Fonterra's whey concentrate.

While New Zealand's Ministry of Science and Innovation said the risky Karicare products have only been sold locally, the Food Safety Department nevertheless ordered local company Chau Uc Nutrition that imports Karicare products to report a list of its purchases by August 6.

An Abbott Vietnam spokesperson said the company has informed customers about the risky lots and told them they can exchange any product they may have bought. Customers can call its hotline at 19001519 for any questions or complaints, the spokesperson said.

Jullian Caillet, chief representative of Abbott Vietnam, said the company has not received any complaints from customers so far.

The New Zealand ministry too said it has not received complaints.

Caillet said his company is working with Fonterra and related agencies to resolve the problem.

Tran Quang Trung, head of the Food Safety Department, said since the tainted lots were only imported recently, not many cans have been sold yet.

Samples from the cans would be tested this week, he said.

No direction has been received from the World Health Organization or the Food and Agriculture Organization, he added.

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