Following collaborative research, scientists from the University of Otago and New Zealand-based geoscience and isotope research centre GNS Science have completed successful preliminary tests on the technique.
They hope that by developing the method, they can help to identify the increasing number of milk powder products masquerading as New Zealand-made.
The announcement comes just months after reports emerged that a number of companies in China had begun marketing their infant formula products as ‘Made in New Zealand’ in an effort to cash in on the safe reputation of Kiwi-made dairy products.
The research, which was funded indirectly by the New Zealand government, examined the chemical make-up of New Zealand rainfall.
According to the researchers, New Zealand rainfall has a distinctive isotope signature that includes two types of hydrogen atom. This isotope pattern passes though the grass eaten by dairy cows into milk products.
“The major advance here is that we are able to link the milk data to the rainfall map and hence use this identify the origin of the commodity,” said Professor Russell Frew from the University of Otago in New Zealand.
Other milk-based products, such as butter and cheese, could also benefit from the development of such a technique.
‘Made in New Zealand’
Earlier this year, it emerged that a number of Chinese firms had been marketing their infant formula products as ‘Made in New Zealand’.
In September 2012, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), which works to improve the international competiveness of New Zealand-based businesses, revealed that the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had contacted Chinese officials in an effort to resolve the issue.
Later that month, a number of New Zealand-based infant formula manufacturers and exporters joined forces in an industry effort to protect the reputation of their brands overseas.
The New Zealand Infant Formula Exporters Associations, which will be branded as Infant Formula New Zealand, was formed to represent and protect the interests of New Zealand-based infant formula exporters.