The company had originally been informed in September that traces of the chemical IsopropilThioXantone (ITX) had been found in some cartons of its Nidina and Latte Mio brands. Tetra Pak, thecontainer's maker, removed ITX from the cartons in October.
When Italian regulators this week began seizing about 30 million litres of the milk from stores and trucks this week, Nestlé decided to extend its original recall to a wider range of the product in Italy, France, Spain and Portugal.
"This is a packaging issue not a food safety issue," Nestlé spokesperson François-Xavier Perroud told FoodProductionDaily.com in explaining the decision. "There was no danger to health from drinking the milk."
The recall will cost the company about €1.6 million, which he said would not affect the company's business.
"By making the recall we want to make sure that consumers know that Nestlé takes these issues seriously and acts quickly and efficiently to solve them," Perroud said.
Nestlé has been using the same container from Tetra Pak for the milk for the past 10 years. He said it was the first time the problem had been noticed.
The problem occurred during what he called a "routine" test for other substances by an Italian laboratory. The laboratory found the traces of ITX in the milk products and regulators toldNestlé about the problem.
ITX was subsequently discovered to leak from the carton to any fatty products like milk when it is exposed to sunlight's ultraviolet rays.
In a statement Tetra Pak said it switched its carton printing processes in October once it discovered the problem.
"This decision was taken as a precautionary measure and in the absence of any scientific evidence indicating a health risk," Tetra Pak stated.
ITX is not prohibited for use in food packaging by the EU, Tetra Pax stated. It added that scientific research indicates that the migration of ITX has "no known health effects".
However EU packaging rules, as amended in 2003, require that food contact materials do not migrate into products meant for human consumption.
Nestle's chief executive and chairman, Peter Brabeck, told Reuters today that the problem was a "storm in a teacup".
Spain's government food safety agency (AESA) said that Nestle had carried out the recall of the baby milk in September and had halted production at the plant in the northern region of Asturias.
The Italian news agency ANSA said a first seizure of two million litres of milk took place in Italy on 9 November. A subsequent laboratory analysis showed that al products with an expiry date ofSeptember 2006 were contaminated and the recall was expanded.