Thursday, September 18, 2008

Got Milk?

This from AFP ... Luckily we never drank Chinese milk or used Chinese formula - but we did love Chinese yogurt. Ah well.

This news makes me so sad - take something you think should be safe and find out, guess what, it's killing you.

Speaking of which, if you want an interesting read, check out the China Study!

Death toll rises to four as China milk scandal escalates

BEIJING (AFP) — China's milk scandal escalated dramatically on Thursday as it emerged the illegal chemical blamed for killing four babies had been detected in a wide range of dairy products, leading to mass recalls.

Authorities in mainland China said melamine, the chemical normally used in plastics that was initially found in infant milk powder, was also in regular milk being sold by three of the country's biggest dairy companies.

In the southern territory of Hong Kong, the government there said melamine had been discovered in drinks, ice creams and yoghurt made by Yili, one of the big brands that was selling the contaminated milk on the mainland.

"We urge the public to stop drinking products from the brand," Constance Chan, the head of Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety, told reporters, after saying melamine was found in eight out of 30 Yili products.

The tainted products in Hong Kong and on the mainland were all being recalled on Thursday.

The discoveries came as Chinese officials reported a fourth baby had died in China's northwest Xinjiang region from drinking infant milk powder contaminated with melamine.

The Xinjiang fatality added to three deaths confirmed on Wednesday by Health Minister Chen Zhu, who also said more than 6,000 babies nationwide had fallen ill.

The scandal had already caused panicked parents around China to besiege hospitals seeking check-ups for their children, and the news that all other types of dairy products may be infected was sure to raise further alarm.

Melamine, banned in foods, was apparently introduced by dairy suppliers in China to give watered-down milk the appearance of having high protein levels.

It then made its way into the baby formula of 22 Chinese dairy firms, authorities said this week.

The three brands identified on Thursday as having melamine in their regular milk were Yili, Mengniu and Guangming, according to a report on the government-run television news station.

Meanwhile Chinese police made 12 more arrests as a probe widened into who added the melamine to the milk, Xinhua news agency reported, bringing the number arrested to 18.

The new arrests came in the northern city of Shijiazhuang, where the dairy manufacturer originally at the centre of the scandal, Sanlu Group, is based.

The mayor of Shijiazhuang was also sacked Thursday, according to Xinhua. Police had also detained the sacked chairwoman of Sanlu on Wednesday.

China's cabinet on Wednesday slammed the dairy industry as "chaotic" and said "flaws" were rife in supervision systems.

Seeking to rectify some of those problems, the government said Thursday it would cancel an eight-year-old system under which food producers could gain exemptions from safety inspections if they had good quality records.

Xinhua said one of the companies utilising that system was Sanlu.

The government also ordered stepped-up tests on livestock feed in an apparent signal of official concern over possible melamine contamination in the wider agricultural sector.

Even before the milk scandal, foreign media investigations had discovered wide use of melamine in China to give livestock feed the appearance of higher protein content.

China has endured a litany of scandals in recent years over dangerous products including food, drugs and toys, many of which were exported.

Two of the 22 milk companies found to have contaminated products exported to Bangladesh, Myanmar and some African countries. However, there has been no evidence yet the tainted products were sold overseas.

While praising China's response since the scandal broke, WHO China representative Hans Troedsson said authorities must determine why it took months for the risks to be made public, even though babies began falling ill several months ago.

"If this was deliberately not reported, that is a serious thing and must be addressed to make sure it is not repeated," Troedsson said.

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