Fears grow over tainted Chinese milk
Hong Kong, September 22, 2008
Fears are growing around the world about the safety of Chinese dairy products after thousands of babies in China fell ill from drinking tainted milk formula.
Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Bangladesh, Gabon, Burundi and the Philippines are testing Chinese dairy products or pulling them from the shelves altogether.
China announced earlier this month that some locally made milk powder had been contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine, which can cause kidney stones, and the scandal has since widened to include even a popular milk sweet.
In Hong Kong, two girls were suspected of having kidney stones after drinking tainted milk, while Taiwan banned all China dairy products from Sunday due to contamination fears.
Hong Kong health officials urged parents to take children to hospital if they see traces of blood in their urine and cry excessively for no apparent reason.
"In serious cases, the stones can lead to kidney failure, in that case, parents must take children to hospital immediately," Chow Chun-bong, consultant pediatrician at Princess Margaret hospital told a news conference.
On Monday, Taiwan's government set up a milk-testing station in Taipei for concerned consumers.
"Of course I'm worried. I bought 20 vats, at a discount," said Lu Chi-e, 60, of Taipei, one of a half dozen people who lined up at the milk-testing station.
Singapore and Malaysia have also banned Chinese dairy imports, while the poor central African countries of Gabon and Burundi, two places China has said contaminated milk powder was exported to, have put curbs on Chinese milk product sales.
Dutch dairy group Friesland Foods removed three types of milk products from shelves in Hong Kong, Singapore and Macau as a precaution, a spokesman told the ANP news agency.
The products were made by a Chinese company in which Friesland Foods holds a minority stake. Friesland Foods said less than one percent of products marketed under its "Dutch Lady" brand were affected.
Japan's top government spokesman, Nobutaka Machimura, told reporters the Health Ministry had asked 90,000 companies to check if their imported products, including processed foods, had been contaminated with melamine.
He said if melamine was found, the ministry would ban the product and provide information to relevant industries and provincial governments.
Japan's Marudai Food Co. Ltd withdrew buns made with milk supplied by China's Yili, a Marudai official said on Monday, adding there had been no reports of illness from the buns.
Marudai shares fell about 14 percent on Monday after the recall.
A spokesman for Japan's Nissin said the group had also recalled products with Chinese dairy ingredients, again without reports of any related sickness.
A visiting US consumer safety official told Reuters in an interview in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou that the incident, which comes after a series of safety scandals last year, underscored the need to eliminate shortcuts in production.
"It illustrates that constant vigilance is needed. It illustrates that you have to make sure that you understand what is coming into your plant, what the raw materials are," said Nancy Nord, acting chairman of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
But South Korean dairy companies have seen sales of their powdered milk surge in China.
Yonhap news agency said the country's top dairy company, Namyang Dairy Products Co. Ltd., had seen its sales of powdered milk more than triple since the scandal. Weekly sales were at about 5,000 cans and now they are at about 16,000 cans.
Number-two company Maeil Dairies Co Ltd said its sales had risen too. "The number of our milk powder cans exported to China on a weekly basis has increased from 3,000 to 4,000. The sudden surge was caused by a recent woes over tainted milk powder in China," a compa