02/02/2010, 00.00
CHINA
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New melamine alarm, Beijing launches national emergency

The authorities have launched a hunt to track contaminated dairy and milk products. Some companies in five provinces had kept stocks in warehouses, then put them back on the market. Currently no deaths or new cases of intoxication.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The melamine scandal has broken out again in China. Government officials have launched a national emergency campaign, which lasts 10 days, to trace dairy and milk products contaminated by the additive that in 2008 killed six children and poisoned a further 300 thousand. Some companies have in fact reused products seized more than a year ago, heedless of the prohibitions imposed by the Department for Food Safety. At the moment there is no news of cases of intoxication.

The official Chinese Xinhua news agency confirmed the sequestered milk products withdrawn from the market because they tested positive for melamine. They come from at least five farms scattered in the provinces of Shaanxi, Shandong, Liaoning, Hebei and Shanghai. Some cases were obscured by the authorities for more than eight months before the public was aware of the new alarm.  

Chen Zhu, Chinese Minister of Health, ensures that all toxic products on the shelves of stores in the country will be withdrawn. He adds that they are going to increase controls and inspections of dairy farms: those found to recycle the chemical additive will be closed. "A small number of unscrupulous companies - refers Xinhua, quoting ministerial sources - and individuals are making gains, despite the public health," but the government assures all efforts to prevent further deaths or poisonings.    

The contaminated milk has been put on the market again because stocks in storage were not able to meet demand. Unscrupulous companies retained toxic products, and then reused them when the outcry over the scandal subsided. To date, 21 people have been tried for having produced or sold milk or dairy foods that contained melamine. Two death sentences were carried out, but the iron fist of the government has not stopped the emergency from re-emerging.  

Melamine can cause kidney stones and lead to death of weak or predisposed people. In 2008 six children died and another 300 thousand were intoxicated. To the latest case of food contamination, the authorities have responded with promises of checks and justice for the victims. However, those who have dared to protest have been arrested or beaten. Among these human rights activist Zhao Lianhai, imprisoned because he joined the struggle of the relatives of the victims.

 

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