Half China’s dairies shut in safety audit

Nearly half of Chinese dairies inspected in a government safety audit have been ordered to stop production, a spokesman said today.

The move follows the 2008 melamine-in-baby milk health scandal, in which Chinese authorities said at least six babies died and another 300,000 were sickened.

Only 643 companies from a total of 1176 had their licences renewed, while 426 failed the quality criteria set by the audit and 107 others had already stopped production to bring themselves into compliance, said administration spokesman Li Yuanping in comments reported on its website.

Of the 145 companies producing milk powder for babies, 114 had their licence renewed, he said.

The authorities will strengthen supervision of dairy companies, both those who passed the audit and the those who did not, and "production without authorisation will be severely punished", said Li.

The measures taken will lead to more than 20 percent of businesses being closed, the Dairy Producers Association of China predicted in an article in China Daily.

China food safety activist gets 2.5 years

In 2008, six children died and nearly 300,000 were sickened by baby formula tainted with melamine. The industrial chemical, used in the manufacture of plastics and fertilizer, was added to watered-down milk to increase profits and fool inspectors testing for protein. Several dairy industry figures were prosecuted and punished, including three people given the death penalty.

Zhao Lianhai (right, exactly as shown) pushed for greater official accountability and compensation for victims and their families after the 2008 scandal that had Chinese officials repeatedly saying they’d do better at food safety basics. He organized a website to collect information about the poisonings, and was taken away by police in November 2009.

Wire services are reporting that Lianhai has now been sentenced to 2.5 years in prison after being found guilty of inciting social disorder.

Lawyer Li Fangping said,

"The crimes he was accused of were nothing more than what regular citizens would do to defend their rights."

Li said prosecutors leveled three charges against Zhao: That he organized a gathering of a dozen parents of sick children at a restaurant, held a paper sign in front of a court and factory involved in the scandal as a protest, and gave media interviews in a public place.

Melamine strikes again

The AFP reports,

China has launched a probe into food safety after the new discovery of products laced with melamine, a chemical blamed for the deaths of six babies in a huge scandal in 2008, state media said Tuesday.

In the latest cases, some companies were found to have made products using melamine-contaminated milk powder that was recalled after the scandal but found its way back on to the market, the official People’s Daily reported.

At a weekend meeting on food safety issues hosted by Health Minister Chen Zhu, officials decided to launch and inspection campaign "to thoroughly check potential problems in food safety," the newspaper said.

"There are still some businesses and individuals that ignore the safety and health of the public and are blinded by greed," it added.

According to the report, the companies involved in the fresh melamine scandal were based in several parts of China, including Shanghai and the northeastern province of Liaoning.

In the latest reported case, authorities in the southwestern province of Guizhou found that some products contained levels of the industrial chemical above allowable limits.

Melamine is a nitrogen rich compound (66% nitrogen) that is specifically used to increase the protein content of food products, namely milk. Upon doing so, one can dilute their product with water thereby increasing profits, essentially food adulteration for economic gain. The problem however, is when melamine combines with cyanuric acid causing crystallization in the kidneys ultimately leading to kidney failure and death.

In 2008, adulteration of infant formula lead to the deaths of six children in China and sickened nearly 300,000 others. Melamine is not approved for direct addition to human or animal foods2 and should therefore be kept out of the food chain.

  1. 1. U.S. Food And Drug Administration. Melamine Contamination in China. Januuary 5, 2009. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ucm179005.html.
  2. 2. Mermelstein, N. Analyzing for Melamine. Journal of Food Technology. February, 2009.

Chocolate body spread recalled by UK regulators

All you Brits shopping at Ann Summers sex shops — the UK’s leading adult toys & lingerie pleasure retailer — stay away from the chocolate body spread.

The U.K. Food Standards Agency said today
it found traces of melamine in the novelty chocolate spreads, which were manufactured in Zhongshan, China, and imported into the country by Scobie (Llarn) Ltd.

"We’ve never had to put out an alert before on (body spread) – chocolate-flavoured or otherwise," the agency said on its website.

4 dead, 53,000 sick from melamine in Chinese baby powder; companies knew for months

The Associated Press reports that four babies have died and almost 53,000 have been sickened from melamine in baby formula in China that now appears to date back to Dec. 2007.

An investigation by the State Council, China’s Cabinet, has found that for eight months, China’s biggest producer of powdered milk, Sanlu Group Co. “did not inform the government and did not take proper measures, therefore making the situation worse.”

Melamine, which can cause kidney stones and kidney failure in babies, has since been found in infant formula and other milk products from 22 of China’s dairy companies.

Also, Li Changjiang, who headed the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine since 2001, has resigned, a year after he and the government promised to overhaul the system.

Stay away from the Chinese baby formula – dozens of babies sick in China cause of melamine in baby formula

Elizabeth Weise reports in the USA Today today that Chinese newspapers are reporting that infant formula has been linked to kidney problems and kidney stones in babies there because the formula contains melamine — the same industrial contaminant that poisoned and killed thousands of U.S. dogs and cats last year.

No baby formula approved for use in the United States is manufactured in China, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"We want to reassure the public that there’s no contamination in the domestic supply of infant formula," says Janice Oliver, deputy of operations for FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

In addition, no U.S. manufacturers or marketers of infant formula receive ingredients from China. "We contacted all of them,’ says Oliver.

"Chinese-manufactured infant formula is illegal in the United States and should not be coming into the United States, and we have controls at the borders to insure that infant formula products don’t come in," says Oliver.

However, the agency is concerned that illegal infant formula may be sold in Asian and ethnic markets. That happened once before in 2004, when fake infant formula from China, which killed dozens of babies in that country, was found in at least one U.S. store.

The FDA is working with state officials to make sure that all Chinese, Asian and ethnic markets are aware of the problem, Oliver says. The agency is also alerting the Chinese community to avoid using China-produced formula.

Reports in the Chinese media from several provinces say that as many as 60 babies have been admitted to hospitals with kidney stones and that the illnesses have been linked to use of a specific brand of powdered infant formula.

Melamine is a by-product of plastic manufacturing. It can be used to mimic high-protein additives such as wheat and rice gluten. Adding melamine to ordinary wheat flour, for example, makes it test as if it is the higher protein, higher cost wheat gluten.