Monday, September 22, 2008

Chinese milk candy also tainted

White Rabbit Milk Candy has been banned from sale in Singapore after tests showed the product contained melamine. Dozens of Chinese milk products have been found to contain the industrial chemical and thousands of babies and young children have been admitted to hospital. Four babies have so far died after consuming tainted baby formula. White Rabbit candy, manufactured by Shanghai Guanshengyuan Food Ltd., is widely still available outside China and remains on sale in Chinese stores in the UK. Over 50,000 babies and young children have so far been treated in hospital across China and more than 100 are in a serious condition after consuming products containing melamine. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has visited a number of hospitals and spoke of government efforts to deal with the problem. "The most crucial point is that after a clean-up there can be no problems at all with newly produced milk products," he said. "If there are fresh problems, they must be even more sternly punished under the law."

Fresh allegations emerged in reports today that the authorities may have known about the contamination earlier than previously thought. One province is said to have notified the health ministry of children suffering kidney stones in mid-July. This was two months before the New Zealand government, acting on information provided by New Zealand company Fonterra, contacted the Chinese government. Fonterra has a 43% shareholding in the most seriously affected Chinese dairy, Sanlu. The boss of Sanlu has been sacked and detained, but her daughter claimed in a blog post that she had reported the contamination to the city authorities in Shijiazhuang, the city south of Beijing where the company was based, in early August. Unfortunately, that coincided with the arrival of the Olympic torch in the city - and to the local government, "the torch came first, and nothing else mattered". "Everyone was weak and powerless in the face of the Olympics," she said [Daily Telegraph].

The banning of Chinese milk based products has widened with Singapore suspending the sale and import of milk, ice-cream, yoghurt, chocolate, biscuits and confectionary, as well as any other products containing milk from China as an ingredient. Japan, Malaysia and Brunei have also recalled or banned Chinese-made dairy products. But the testing of such products such as White Rabbit candy will have wide ranging implications. The product has a long shelf life and as yet there has been no word of such products being banned from sale in the UK [Australian Herald Sun / Asia One / BBC].

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