China dispatches food safety inspectors after melamine-contaminated milk resurfaces

08:57, February 03, 2010

China has dispatched inspectors to 16 provinces to urge local authorities to thoroughly investigate cases concerning food safety, the government's latest move against a string of reportedly resurfacing melamine-tainted milk products after a nationwide crackdown in 2008.

Any law-breaking concerning food safety will be severely dealt with, an official with the National Food Safety Rectification Office led by Health Minister Chen Zhu said here Tuesday.

The unnamed official said the office recently dispatched eight teams of inspectors. The official did not give details on the total number of inspectors involved or their identities.

Milk powder laced with melamine that should have been destroyed has been used, local authorities discovered.

Media reports said melamine-tainted dairy products have resurfaced in several Chinese provinces.

Melamine is an industrial compound which can give a false positive on protein tests and cause kidney stones. Melamine-contaminated milk products left at least six children dead and 300,000 sickened in 2008.

"These cases reveal that the toxic milk powder recalled in 2008 was not completely destroyed and is now illegally reused for new products," the official said.

In December 2009, three people from the Shanghai Panda Dairy Company were prosecuted on suspicion of producing and selling melamine-tainted milk powder. Local police said all the company's products had been recalled and that there was no harm to consumers.

Another three people from the Shaanxi Jinqiao Dairy Co. Ltd. in northwest Shaanxi Province had also been detained by police over suspected tainted milk powder sales before its products reached retail stores.

Food safety issues have became particularly sensitive in China after the 2008 milk scandal. The government has intensified supervision of food safety with new laws and regulations, including the Food Safety Law that took effect on June 1, 2009. Nationwide checks of food safety have also been increased.

The official said food safety was a global issue, one that existed in both developing and developed countries.

Improving food safety standards is a long-term tough task for China, the official added.