news 11 Feb 13

Balkan Countries Withdraw Suspect Croatian Milk

Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia and Montenegro have taken milk produced by two Croatian dairies off the market amid fears of contamination by potentially dangerous aflatoxin M1.

Belgrade, Podgorica, Sarajevo, Skopje, Zagreb

The four countries moved to withdraw the suspect products after a scientific analysis in Vienna at the weekend showed that the amount of aflatoxin M1 in the milk produced by Croatian dairies Dukat and Vindija was 0.006 percent, higher than the legally permitted 0.005 per cent.

Croatia’s agriculture ministry insisted that there was no reason for worry, because only "minimal concentrations above proscribed" were registered.

But the products were removed from the shelves in stores in Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro, while Macedonia moved to stop the suspect milk reaching food outlets.

The authorities in Serbia said meanwhile that the country had not imported any of the Croatian products.

The Croatian milk producers initially claimed that the contaminated milk was imported from abroad, but agricultural ministry assistant Mirjana Matausic Pisl said on Sunday that it came from domestic farms.

Dukat and Vindija said in a joint statement on Friday that the contamination was an "isolated case" and that they would stop buying milk from farms they believed could have produced the suspect products.

The companies said they believed that aflotoxin M1 got into the milk through concentrated animal food.

Aflatoxins are produced by mould and can harm human and animal health if they enter the food chain in significant enough concentrations.

Bosnia’s food safety agency said it had taken steps to ensure the suspect products were not imported.

“The border veterinary inspectors will check the next ten packages from these producers… sampling and keeping the packages until the results of a laboratory analysis,” the agency said in a press statement.

Imports would only be resumed if the results of the tests showed the products were safe, the agency said.

The Montenegrin authorities said that several suspect milk products from the Dukat and Vindi dairies had already been pulled off the market.

Spaso Popovic, assistant director of Montenegro’s government inspection department, said that samples had been taken for analysis and results were expected in the coming days.

Macedonia’s food safety agency sought to calm public fears by insisting it had intervened to stop any of the suspect products reaching the country’s shelves.

“Only some 360 litres of the problematic shipments of milk have been imported… but we issued a ban on its sale before it reached markets,” the agency said in a statement.

Serbia’s agricultural inspection chief Nenad Katanic said meanwhile that samples of milk sold in the country are currently being analysed to determine whether they contain excessive levels of aflatoxins.

The results will be known "by Wednesday", he said.

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