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New tests: Chinese milk melamine-free

South Korean officials recall M&M's and Snickers, as China's production standards improve.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / October 7, 2008

Melamine-free: Chinese laboratory technicians test samples of Chinese milk products. Chinese officials said on Sunday that all samples were melamine-free.

Eye Press/AP



China's widening poisoned milk scandal ensnared some of the world's top food brands Monday, as South Korean authorities recalled Chinese-made M&M's, Snickers bars, and Ritz crackers.

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The products were among 10 processed foods exported from China that were found to contain traces of melamine, the toxic chemical used to adulterate powdered milk that has killed four babies in China and sickened 54,000 others.

As officials worldwide continue to check for tainted Chinese milk products, there are signs that production safety in China is improving. New government tests show that the latest batches of milk are melamine-free. Meanwhile, victims of the contaminated dairy products are beginning to take legal action.

Although the melamine levels in the goods on sale in South Korea "do not pose a big health threat ... we will take the necessary measures to ensure food safety," the South Korean Food and Drug Administration said.

In Beijing, meanwhile, the new head of the Chinese government's quality watchdog pledged "substantial changes in the production and distribution of dairy products."

Wang Yong, who became head of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine last month after his predecessor was fired when the melamine scandal broke, told Xinhua, the official news agency, that his staff had dispatched 1,644 inspection teams to every dairy factory in the country.

The latest round of tests found that all 340 batches of milk powder made in the past three weeks and submitted for analysis were melamine-free, the government watchdog announced Sunday.

Beijing's bid to restore consumer confidence in Chinese dairy products has included regular announcements of arrests as police investigate how melamine, an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of plastics and fertilizer, found its way into baby formula and other milk products made by Sanlu and 20 other dairy companies.

Six people suspected of clandestinely producing and selling melamine were detained in Inner Mongolia, China's largest dairy center, the police there said Sunday. That brought the number of people being held in connection with the scandal to 42.

They range from Tian Wenhua, general manager and chairwoman of Sanlu, to small-dairy farmers and managers of local milk collection centers suspected of adding melamine to diluted milk in order to falsify protein readings.