New toxic milk powder scandal hits China
Samples of milk powder contained levels of the chemical melamine up to 500 times the permitted limit.
Fri, Jul 09, 2010 at 4:41 AM
MELAMINE MILK: Chinese law enforcement officers inspect milk powder on sale at a supermarket. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
BEIJING - Chinese authorities seized 64 tons of milk powder and products laced with the same deadly toxic additive that sparked an uproar in 2008, officials and state media said, underscoring the persistence of food safety breaches.
Samples of milk powder found in northwest China's Gansu and Qinghai provinces had levels of the chemical melamine up to 500 times the permitted limit, and suspected tainted powder also turned up in the country's northeast, said a report from the Xinhua news agency on Friday.
As well as seizing 38 tons of milk powder, police in Qinghai seized 26 tons of dairy powder with lower amounts of melamine and 12 tons of finished products, an official in the Qinghai quality watchdog told Reuters. He would not give his name and did not specify the products.
The exposure of tainted milk products in a poor and remote parts of China's northwest has underscored the persistence of food safety problems that have alarmed consumers and sparked criminal scandals that led to executions and official sackings.
Two years ago, at least six children died and nearly 300,000 children fell ill from drinking powdered milk laced with melamine, an industrial compound added to fool inspectors by giving misleadingly high results in protein tests.
Faced with outrage from consumers and anguished parents and an international outcry, Beijing blamed officials in north China's Hebei province for covering up the problem dairy products, sold mainly by Hebei's now bankrupt Sanlu Group, which was partly owned by New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra.
China executed two people last November for their role in the scandal.
The latest report did not mention any deaths or illnesses blamed on the latest batches of toxic dairy products.
"The authorities have demanded strict investigations and punishment, and the preventing of any problem milk powder entering the market," it said.
Inspectors found samples of milk powder from a dairy company worker operating in northwest Gansu province had melamine levels as high as 559 percent above the government-mandated limit.
Police traced the tainted milk powder to a dairy factory in neighboring Qinghai province. The company had bought the powder from elsewhere and kept it in a village near the factory.
"Tests showed levels of melamine 500 times above the accepted level," said the report.
Traders had bought the tainted milk from Hebei province, possibly buying up batches supposed to have been destroyed after the 2008 scandal, said Xinhua.
Melamine can cause kidney stones, and is used to make plastics, fertilizers and concrete. Its high nitrogen content allows protein levels to appear higher when added to milk or animal feed, allowing traders to disguise substandard products.
(Reporting by Chris Buckley)
Copyright 2010 Reuters US Online Report World News
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