Asia acts to contain China's tainted milk
Japanese-brand cheesecake and cookies in Australia are among the latest products found to have melamine. Tests in China have revealed 31 more cases of contamination, the state news agency reported Wednesday.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Many of China's neighbors have already banned or recalled imported dairy products suspected of containing the chemical melamine. Tainted Chinese milk formula is blamed for the deaths of four babies and for sickening tens of thousands in a scandal that was only exposed last month after being swept under the carpet during the Beijing Olympics.
On Tuesday, authorities said that 27 people had been arrested so far in connection with the case, as Prime Minister Wen Jiabao toured dairy companies in Anhui Province and told them to improve their standards, state news agency Xinhua reported. Tests posted Wednesday on the national food safety administration's website showed 31 additional samples of milk powder were tainted, according to the Associated Press.
In recent days, international food companies have yanked branded products such as Lipton's milk tea and Cadbury chocolates from supermarket shelves across Asia as local inspectors step up tests of dairy products that may contain melamine, which is normally used for plastics and fertilizers. On Wednesday Hong Kong announced it had found melamine in Japanese-brand cheesecake made in China, and Australia recalled a popular line of cookies.
Many of the recalled products contain only small amounts of powdered milk from China, which is a net importer of dairy products. A handful of babies have reportedly fallen ill in Hong Kong after consuming melamine-laced milk, but elsewhere the recalls have been largely preemptive.
In Thailand, government inspectors have impounded 80 tons of Chinese milk powder, though an importer has denied any contamination. The issue resonates strongly in Taiwan, whose government was elected in March on a platform of closer commercial ties with China. Premier Liu Chao-shiuan has called on China to apologize for its tainted products.
From pet food and lead-painted toys to toothpaste and seafood, China has weathered previous storms over the safety of its exports. Adulterated baby formula sold under counterfeit brands has also been blamed for past deaths. This time, dairy distributors added melamine to milk to disguise its low quality after it was diluted. The same chemical was also found in pet food that killed dogs and cats in the US.