Tainted dairy prompts new safety probe

13:24, February 02, 2010      

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By Zou Le

Authorities launched a campaign yesterday to look into food safety problems including the recent discovery that tainted milk from 2008 were used to make ice cream bars and other products sold just weeks ago.

The announcement came two years after six children died after consuming melamine-tainted milk.

The discovery prompted authorities to launch a 10-day campaign to "thoroughly and comprehensively investigate food safety risks."

Huang Ying, an officer in the food department at Lanzhou Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision of Gansu Province, where several children got kidney stones after using melamine-tainted milk, told the Global Times yesterday they launched a probe Sunday at the direction of the central government.

"We will conduct sample tests once a week at dairy companies as well as thoroughly test all the dairy products sold here," said Huang.

The stepped up practice came after several cases of milk products with excessive melamine were discovered.

Melamine, which in large quantities may lead to kidney stones and kidney failure, is a cheap additive used illegally with watered-down milk to make it appear to have a higher protein content.

A week ago, officials in Guizhou Province announced that four dairy companies sold products in the province with high levels of melamine, and the companies involved blamed suppliers for the contamination.

The four companies were Shanghai Panda Dairy Company, which was already shut down before the official announcement in Guizhou, Zibo Lusaier Dairy Company, Tieling Wuzhou Food Company and the Laoting Kaida Refrigeration Plant.

Prior to this, the authorities in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province confiscated over five tons of problematic milk powder in December, in which 275 kilograms were found with excessive melamine.

According to a report later released by the local police, the inspection authority detected the tainted milk powder by Shanxi Jinqiao Diary Company back in October 2008. At that time, regulators sealed up the products in the company's warehouse but never destroyed them. That left "a chance for the company to change the labels and resell the products."

"There were still some leftovers in the dealers' hands that nobody cared about," Wang Dingmian, former chairman of the Guangdong Provincial Dairy Association told the China Economic News.

According to Wang, the recently reported cases of contaminated milk products are related to products stashed away during the 2008 milk powder. Wang is worried that insufficient follow-up into those tainted milk could lead to a surge of similar cases.

During the 2008 milk scandal, 69 batches of tainted milk products weighing approximately 10,000 tons, were recalled.

Hu Xiaosong, a professor specializing in food security, told the Global Times that regulators failed to fulfill their duties.

"Those concerned companies should be closed and their chiefs should be arrested," he said, urging a more complete inquiry into the problem.
The chief of the Office of the Guangzhou Diary Industry Administration downplayed the adverse effects of the problem.

"These are only isolated cases that are uncommon in the dairy industry in China," he said.

Source:Global Times
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