Angry over secret melamine probe

08:10, January 07, 2010      

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Questions are being asked about why authorities in Shanghai waited eight months before informing the public that they were investigating a company for selling dairy products tainted with melamine.

Several batches of milk powder produced by Shanghai Panda Dairy were found contaminated with melamine, the same ingredient that killed several babies in 2008.

Shanghai Food Security Conference Office issued a statement on the last day of 2009 that the company was shut down, adding that three company officials were detained and the products sold in seven provinces were recalled.

Shanghai Panda was one of the companies blacklisted by the nation's quality safety watchdog during the scandal in 2008.
But the company was allowed to resume production after promises to improve its product safety.

However, the recent shutdown attracted complaints instead of support.

The unsafe products were discovered on April 23, 2009 by the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision (SBQTS), according to an internal report issued by the General Administration of Quality, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) on April 29 within the nation's quality inspection system, Guangdong-based 21st Century Business Herald reported.

Calls to the SBQTS were not answered. And questions faxed to AQSIQ Tuesday were also not answered.

"We got the news from insiders in April. And the local bureau said they would investigate the violations," said a man surnamed Peng, an employee at Zhejiang Panda Dairy Products Company, a competitor of the Shanghai company.

"We wonder why the authorities broke the news now," he told the Global Times, adding that many consumers have been calling and asking about the safety of dairy products.
The public complained also.

"They shouldn't have covered it up for so long. What if someone had been using the tainted products?" Li Jian in Fujian Province told the Global Times Tuesday.

However, some industry insiders told the Guangdong-based newspaper that they had learned the news before it broke out, but they were asked to keep the information quiet.

The insiders did not reveal who made the demand, but noted that the dairy market just recovered from a recession after the severe blow from the Sanlu Milk Powder scandal in 2008, which caused the deaths of six babies and sickened about 300,000 other children.

"The supervision department should break the news as soon as possible. Priority should be given to consumers' safety, not the interests of the industry," Ren Lin in Shanghai told the Global Times Tuesday.

"The authorities should report the news as soon as possible and track the suspected products closely," Wang Dingmian, former director of the Dairy Association of China, told the Global Times.

Wang blamed the latest scandal on tens of thousands of tainted milk products detected during the scandal in 2008 but which were not destroyed. "Some local governments didn't destroy them completely. Some producers recycled and sold them again illegally."

Despite this latest scandal, Wang noted that 99 percent of the nation's dairy producers are reliable.

Source:Global Times
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