Nestle SA, the world's biggest food and drink company, said Tuesday it has recalled baby milk from four European markets after traces of ink from the packaging were found in the product.
&to=http://english.pravda.ru/economics/2001/09/19/15656.html' target=_blank>Nestle spokesman Francois-Xavier Perroud said that some of the formula had been withdrawn in France, Portugal and Spain, but that the largest amount was in Italy, where he said up to 2 million liters (530,000 gallons) of milk had been recalled.
"We are sad that the packaging material that we bought from a reliable source did not live up to the standards that we expect," Nestle spokesman Francois-Xavier Perroud told The Associated Press.
"We are replacing every single (contaminated) product that you can lay your hands on," Perroud said.
Nestle learned about the problem this autumn, when routine tests in Italy indicated that presence of isopropylthioxanthone (ITX) in its Latte Mio and Nidina 1 and 2 milk brands, he said.
Perroud put the blame on Swedish packaging giant &to=http://english.pravda.ru/economics/2001/10/07/17315.html' target=_blank>Tetra Pak AG. He said Tetra Pak's packaging allowed ink to leak through, causing a chemical reaction which contaminated the milk.
But he insisted ITX was not toxic and the products were removed only as a precaution.
"In the quantities that this chemical is found in the food, it is not a health risk and there is a broad scientific consensus about that," Perroud said. "It is simply a chemical and chemicals have no business in food."
Tetra Pak said it eliminated ITX from infant formula product packages in October, but noted that its use in food packaging was legal under European Union law and not advised against by the U.N. health agency.
It is "a technology used widely by numerous food packaging companies," spokesman Jorgen Haglind said in a statement.
Earlier Tuesday, authorities in Italy said they ordered the confiscation of about 30 million liters (8 million gallons) of baby milk, but Perroud denied the reports.
Cristina Attina, an official with forest rangers in Rome, said a batch of milk due to expire in September 2006 had been contaminated by a chemical that leaked from the packaging. It said the substance appeared to be toxic.
The duties of forest rangers in Italy include overseeing food safety regulations.
Nestle's Italian headquarters in Milan said ITX is not dangerous for the health.
"This decision was taken as an extreme precautionary measure to reassure consumers even if, based on the declarations of the packaging supplier and a rigorous analysis of available facts also conducted by independent bodies, Nestle believes that the level of ITX measured in the tested products does not represent a health risk," the company said.
Nestle Italy said it had withdrawn the milk in question from the Italian market and that new liquid milks using alternative packages have since been distributed.
"These new batches can be recognized by the sell-by date starting with October 2006 for liquid Nidina 2 and July 2006 for liquid Nidina 1," it said.
Nestle's office in Spain also said the move was precautionary and that the substance was not dangerous.
Perroud said the amounts recalled in Italy were by far the largest among the four European markets affected by the recall.
"We're talking about 2 million liters in Italy at the most," he said. "The amounts (recalled) in France, Spain and Portugal are much smaller."