02/13/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Leading Chinese milk brand accused of causing cancer

Fresh milk from the company Mengniu, a leader in the industry, has been found to contain an additive that could cause tumors. Exasperation among consumers. Inspections being carried out on powdered milk from Danone.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - China's health authorities are accusing Milk Deluxe, from industry leader China Mengniu Dairy, of being capable of causing tumors.

From tests carried out two days ago by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, it has emerged that the milk contained the additive osteoblast, a protein. Scientists maintain that excessive doses of the substance can cause tumors, including breast cancer for women.

The company replies that the additive is safe, and is even approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But the expert Fang Zhouzi points out that in the past the company had been found to have used dangerous additives, or "made false advertisements."

The country has still not moved past the trauma of the scandal that exploded in September over powdered milk containing large quantities of melamine, a toxic substance that has caused the deaths of at least six infants, and kidney problems for about 300,000 more. Yesterday on the internet, many enraged citizens asked "is there any company on the mainland that can make a simple product called safe milk?", expressing the widespread distrust that still surrounds the industry. Others complain that foods scandal like these "happen all the time." In 2004 in Fuyang (Anhui), 13 infants died and at least 189 became sick after receiving an infant formula without any nutritional value.

The company Sanlu, at the center of the melamine-tainted milk scandal, declared bankruptcy yesterday. In January, its former CEO was sentenced to life in prison.

Melanie was also found in products from Mengniu in September, but in much smaller quantities than in those of Sanlu, and the company, despite losing a significant portion of its market share and having to destroy entire shipments of adulterated products, lost only 900 million yuan (about 90 million euros) in its fiscal year. Mengniu has always said that Milk Deluxe is produced on the company's own farms. The product has been untouched by the melamine scandal, and is one of the company's flagship product. Because of its good reputation, it costs about twice as much as similar products.

Meanwhile, in Shanghai, health officials are conducting inspections on Dumex powdered milk from the French company Danone, which is suspected of containing melamine. The company has vigorously denied all accusations.

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