Fonterra has insisted that the New Zealand-based dairy is 100 per cent confident in its products as one of its Chinese customers faces an investigation into tainted milk claims.

Chinese media reported earlier in the week that medical tests had reported excessive levels of hormones in three young girls who had consumed milk powder made by Synutra International.

Parents of the children and doctors in the Hebei province had expressed concern that the milk powder caused the girls, aged four- to 15 months, to prematurely develop breasts.

The Chinese health ministry has ordered an investigation into the claims. In the meantime, the manufacturer Synutra International has said that the milk powder in question was sourced from New Zealand.

Fonterra statement

Fonterra has responded to this, saying that it is indeed a supplier to the Chinese company but that it is entirely confident that its products are not tainted with growth hormones.

In a statement released this morning, the company said: “Fonterra is a supplier of milk powder to Synutra International but we understand Synutra sources some milk locally and imports whey powder from Europe.

“In New Zealand there are strict legislative controls on the use of Hormonal Growth Promotants (HGPs) – they are not allowed to be used on milking cows. The strict controls mean that it is not necessary for New Zealand milk or milk products to be routinely tested.”

The dairy concluded that it “remains 100 per cent confident about the quality of its products.”

Allegations that milk products were tainted with growth hormones is another blow for the Chinese dairy industry as it continues to fight melamine contamination scares.

Chinese produced milk powder laced with the toxin killed six children and sickened an estimated 300,000 in 2008, virtually wiping out the Chinese dairy export market in its wake. Despite efforts by the authorities to improve food safety practices, two fresh cases of melamine tainted milk emerged in December.