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Unreported tainted milk incident publicised in China



The health department in Guizhou province, China has ordered three batches of milk products to be removed from sale after the discovery they contain melamine. In 2008 six children were killed by milk contaminated with the chemical and 300,000 fell ill.

The department has suspended all sales from the three companies involved. Last November, two men were executed for their roles in selling milk tainted with the chemical, which was largely distributed by Samlu Corp, a company that has since been liquidised. The executed convicts mixed up batches totalling hundreds of tonnes of melamine-tainted milk, and were among 21 people successfuly prosecuted over the contamination. Chinese dairy products were withdrawn around the world.

The latest finds have gone unreported for nearly a year before a provincial news service reported on the tainted products from Shandong Zibo Lusaier Dairy Co., Liaoning Tieling Wuzhou Food Co. and Laoting Kaida Refrigeration Plant. This was then picked up today by China Daily, meaning it has only now come to the world's attention. No specifics are available other than that popsicles are involved.

Early 2009 would place the discoveries and recalls shortly after the government anounced a crackdown on malpractice in the dairy industry. Recently, two other reports have emerged of tainted milk being discovered elsewhere in China, including Shanghai.

It is uncertain why this is only now becoming public knowledge, althought the Shanghai case was said to be complicated by crossing provincial borders. There, reports emerged on New Year's Eve although the actual news dated back to April.

After the 2008 milk scandal new food safety legislation was passed. These new laws made room for more vigourous testing and stronger recall arrangements. The government made it clear that coverups were intolerable. At the time, 22 companies were indentified as being involved in melamine-contamination in milk.

Two dairies recently named in state media as behind more recent incidents were on that original list, including Laoting Kaida and Shanghai Panda Dairy Co. Media reports suggest that the newer problem may have been that milk containing melimine that was never destroyed from the original discovery was then repackaged.

The companies involved have stated that they bought in raw milk without realising it contained the poisonous chemical. China Daily quoted an official as saying the same thing. It also stated an ex-dairy industry official had stated that it was probably that further milk containing illegally high levels of the substance remained available to the Chinese consumer.

News organisations have tried contacting the companies involved and authorities in Guizhou province but with little success. This trend was bucked by the Agence France-Presse, who reached Guizhou's health department, only to be told the reports were not correct.

Melamine has a high nitrogen content which can make watered-down milk seem to contain extra protein. It is intended for use in manufacturing industries, in products such as concrete, plastic and fertiliser. Large quantities can cause kidney stones and kidney failure.



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