02/17/2010, 00.00
CHINA
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For years, Chinese dairies made melamine-tainted milk products

Medium-size dairies produced and sold melamine-tainted milk products throughout 2009, until they were caught. The government announces tougher measures, has not yet made public the actual data on tainted-milk products. Far more was sold than has actually been seized.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Jintian Dairy sold melamine-tainted milk, which was given to at least 5,000 children. Although the authorities have shut down the company, many wonder how effective food safety measures are.

Since 2004, the company used inferior milk that no other dairy used, trading quality for lower costs, and sold it as baby formula after adding melamine, the local press reported.

Melamine is a chemical compound with properties that imitate proteins. Added to food products, it can increase the apparent protein content. However, it is poisonous for humans.

In September 2008, a scandal broke out in China when a number of dairy producers were caught using the substance. At least, 300,000 children fell ill as a result and seven died.

This week, nation-wide controls led the authorities to shut down three unscrupulous diaries in Xi’an, Xianyang and Weinan (Shaanxi) that used powder milk that contained high traces of the chemical.

Lekang Dairy in Weinan was also closed and four people arrested for selling 28 tonnes of tainted powder milk.

The authorities are still on guard since official figures indicate that five dairies in Shaanxi, Ningxia and Liaoning produced 200 tonnes of milk powder but that only 80 have been traced so far.

At the same time though, the government has not released any information about tainted milk products sold by other dairies.

The government made public and state news agency Xinhua reported that the Provincial Health Bureau seized more than 10 tonnes of tainted milk powder between April 2009 and January 2010 used by a company in Yingkou and two ice cream makers in Liaoyang and Tieling.

Deputy Prime Minister Li Keqiang announced today a new food-safety campaign, pledging greater safety checks and punishment for producers.

Still, people are increasingly complaining by the lack of proper safety checks on food since the scandal broke in September of 2008.

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