Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New milk safety concerns in China

There are new concerns over milk safety in China after melamine-tainted milk products were pulled from shelves of stores in southern China. The move comes a little over a year after hundreds of thousands of children were made ill after consuming contaminated products. Frozen milk products and cartons of milk dating from early 2009 were taken off the shelves after health inspectors tested them and found them positive for the toxic chemical melamine, said Ling Hu, a Guizhou provincial government spokeswoman. Tainted products from three companies, Shandong Zibo Lusaier Dairy, Liaoning Tieling Wuzhou Food and Laoting Kaida Refrigeration were found in more than a dozen convenience stores around the province.

The latest health scare is all the more concerning as many of the products are ice-creams and popsicles which would likely be consumed by young children. 

Laoting Kaida Refrigeration was among companies named in the original melamine scandal in 2008, when six children died and 300,000 were sickened after drinking baby formula contaminated with melamine, an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of plastics and fertilizer.

Earlier this month, government officials said the Shanghai Panda Dairy Co. had been under a secret investigation for nearly a year before announcing they had been producing melamine-tainted milk.

According to local media reports, the three companies said their products contained melamine because they bought milk powder as a raw material to use in their products. But Wang Dingmian, former chairman of the Guangdong Provincial Dairy Association, said the products likely contained tainted milk recalled after the 2008 scandal but which somehow made its way back into the market. "The companies were just shirking their responsibilities. The companies should have been required to test each and every batch of milk powder they bought," he said. 

Wang said the latest scandal exposed weak government regulation of the market because it involved leftover tainted milk. "The government should be more responsible and avoid bureaucracy. You can't just assume that everything is fine," he said. 

Food and product safety is of great concern to Chinese consumers and amongst expats. In recent days there were reports that fake beer was being sold in Beijing bars. Exported products have also been found to be harmful. An investigation by The Associated Press found 12 of 103 pieces of Chinese-made children's jewelry bought in US stores contained at least 10% cadmium, some contained up 80% and 90%. Cadmium, like lead, can hinder brain development in young children, according to recent research, and also causes cancer. China has not commented on reports of the cadmium problem. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission warned parents to "safely dispose" of any cheaply made jewelry or trinkets, most of which are imported from China [Washington Post / BBC / China Digital Times / People's Daily / New Observer].

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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