Wednesday, September 24, 2008

UK store withdraws Chinese sweets

Poison candy - the latest product found to contain melanin

White Rabbit Milk Candy, which was banned from sale in Singapore after tests showed the product contained melamine, has now been withdrawn from shelves at Tesco stores in the UK. A spokesman for Tesco said the sweets were being removed from sale as a “precaution” [Independent / The Guardian / CNN].

However, the withdrawal comes soon after New Zealand authorities found "unacceptably high levels" of melamine in the confectionary [New Zealand Herald]. Those tests were prompted by reports and requests by the Herald Newspaper on Monday [New Zealand Herald]. A New Zealand Food Safety spokesperson initially said that removing the sweets from sale would be “a knee-jerk reaction”. But when Sandra Daly, Deputy Chief Executive of New Zealand’s Food Safety Authority, was told White Rabbit candy in Singapore had been contaminated, her reaction was one of concern. "Oh, good grief” she exclaimed, “We've gone through as many things that contained dairy significant components as we can from items we took from the Asian supermarkets, but I don't think anyone has picked this one up”.

No public statement from UK authorities has been issued as to whether tests have been carried out on products imported from China. As yet there have been no reports of illness associated with milk products outside of China but concern is increasing following reports in several Asian countries that products tested positive for melamine [BBC]. Products have already been removed from shops across Asia including Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines and now New Zealand and the UK are beginning to react. Milk products are also being pulled from shelves in Australia after “significantly high levels” of melamine was found in milk based ice-lollies [The Age].
Blame is also beginning to mount on companies at the centre of the crisis as well as the Chinese government [New zealand Herald]. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade released an official timeline at the weekend revealing Fonterra China "gave an informal indication" on August 14 to an embassy official that its 43% owned joint venture was "receiving milk contaminated with melamine". The Chinese government was not formally alerted until the New Zealand Government ordered its foreign affairs officials to warn Chinese food safety authorities in Beijing on the 9th September.

The bad publicity for China will no doubt compound problems for a country which relies heavily on exports. A chief food inspection official told reporters yesterday that things were getting better. "As far as I know, there will be no more bad news," Xiang Yuzhang said [BBC]. He couldn’t be any more wrong.

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