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DSM targets melamine contamination with antibody launch

By Neil Merrett , 25-Mar-2009

A development in antibody-based food testing is the latest product launched specifically to trace contamination of the industrial chemical melamine in milk products, according to its manufacturer.

DSM says that the Delvotest MT testing kit is the first product it offers a means for testing melamine, which was linked to a milk scandal that rocked China last year, leading to the hospitalisation and deaths of some consumers.

Melamine is a chemical that can exaggerate protein content in a product and has been linked to causing kidney stones and other health problems.

China concerns

In reacting to concerns from its Chinese customers for improved tracing for the industrial chemical, DSM said that it has designed a quantative and sensitive means of ensuring product safety.

The manufacturer claims it has collaborated on developing highly reactive antibodies that can recognise the presence of melamine during screening, which will be launched on the Chinese market from next month.

“The easy-to-use test works through the recognition of melamine by antibodies and requires less than one ml of the sample extract to determine the product’s safety,” stated DSM. “The test can be performed in less than an hour for maximum processing efficiency.”

The company told DairyReporter.com that, while the product could be used by manufacturers worldwide, DSM was currently focused solely on it customers in China.

According to a spokesperson for the group, the need to ensure product safety in the country meant that product cost would not be a major factor for manufacturers. Nonetheless, DSM said that it would work with manufacturers on supporting and advising on safety testing within their operations.

Looking beyond melamine testing, the manufacturer said that Delvotest MT had been specifically developed for melamine, therefore additional applications for contamination testing were not currently in its scope.

Consumer confidence

Safety fears following last year’s melamine scandal have continued to impact on Chinese consumer’s preferences for dairy products.

Back in November, analyst TNS said that in a survey of 1,600 Chinese consumers, it found many buyers were more confident that larger dairy groups like Arla Mengniu and Yili, which were both implicated in the scandal, would recover from the incident than their smaller counterparts.

At the peak of the scandal, the report suggests that over the space of one week, consumer dairy sales plummeted by 54 per cent compared to the same period the previous year. However, taking into account the fours weeks ending 3 October, purchases fell only by 18 per cent, according to TNS.

Belying these falls, some multinational dairy producers were found to be on the receiving end of an unexpected sales surge, which TNS says boosted their marketing share in China’s dairy market. The country is widely seen as an important strategic area for expansion.

The share improvements occurred even with a hike in dairy prices and infant milk by about 26 per cent and 33 per cent respectively.

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