Together with Danish Foss and New Zealand-based dairy company Fonterra, Arla has developed a screening method that can reveal whether milk has been tampered with in order to achieve financial gains. This method will be used in such countries as China, where confidence in locally produced foods is low.
The screening method will now be tested in practice at the Mengnius dairies, and will be one of the first tasks of the new ‘China-Denmark Milk Technology Cooperation Centre’ inaugurated by Arla on November 26 in Beijing. The aim of the new centre is to promote food safety in the Chinese dairy industry.
“If this method had been available to Chinese dairies in 2008, they might have discovered that the milk had been tampered with, and avoided the earlier problems with food safety,” says Frede Juulsen, SVP at Arla with responsibility for China.
According to the China Dialogue, China’s food safety have had negative lights for nearly a decade. However, it was the dairy products that rang the alarm on the issue in 2008 with the melamine milk scandal in which at least six babies died and a further 860 were hospitalised after drinking powdered milk laced with the chemical.
Another incident in June this year of tainted milk in China — this time with mercury — has led to a major recall. (Qilai Shen/European Pressphoto Agency)
In a statement from Arla, it assured that all raw milk weighed in at the Mengnius dairies is analysed for melamine. Once the new screening method has been initiated, only milk that deviates from normal milk will be tested for melamine and other substances. At first, the screening will take place at the dairy before the processing starts, but the aim in the longer term is that the milk is analysed in the the tanker at the farm or at the intermediary’s premises.
Arla’s new method is based on how raw milk has its own special “fingerprint”. This fingerprint can be registered via infra-red light that is passed through the milk sample. The sample’s fingerprint is then compared with the fingerprint of normal milk. Any deviation indicates an abnormal composition of the milk.
“As the new screening method is reliable, fast and cheap, it is interesting for all dairies in China. Once we have tested it, the rest of the dairy industry can also implement it, so that consumer confidence can be restored – for the benefit of the entire industry,” Juulsen said.