China begins probe into melamine-in-milk case

23 September 2008 13:32  [Source: ICIS news]

SINGAPORE (ICIS news)--China has begun investigating the role of melamine producers in the tainted milk case, which has caused the death of four infants, hospitalised around 13,000 and made more than 53,000 ill, market players said on Tuesday.

"The local government [official] came to ask us where our products were sold to and required us to write an explanation," a melamine producer said.

The government had issued inspection notices to melamine producers asking them to provide details of sales and identify buyers, procured volumes and the intended uses of the chemical, the Industry and Information Ministry said late on Monday.

Melamine is normally used in the production of plastics, fertilizers and in industrial adhesives, but some buyers in China had added the toxic chemical to milk products to make them appear rich in protein content.

Producers must make it clear to clients that the use of melamine for food and feed processing is strictly prohibited, the ministry added.

The government had also begun a month-long campaign to overhaul milk collection, the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement on its website on Monday.

All milk collectors would have to register with the ministry, which would enforce strict inspection of fresh milk to ensure that it is free of melamine contamination, it added.

The case has led to numerous arrests and resignations, including that of Li Changjiang, who stepped down as head of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine on Monday.

Wu Xianguo, the Communist Party chief of Shijiazhuang in northern Hebei Province, where dairy producer Sanlu Group is based, was also removed from office on Monday according to Xinhua news reports.

Wu was removed for delaying reporting the issue to higher authorities for more than a month, Xinhua added.

Before Wu, Mayor Ji Chuntang and Vice Mayor Zhang Fawang as well as three other city officials were asked to resign.

Beijing was also taking steps to ensure that the tainted milk products did not reach processors or export markets and has said that it would cooperate with food quality inspectors in other countries to resolve the crisis.

Japan, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and Hong Kong have recalled or banned Chinese dairy products while Taiwan was conducting a sweeping food inspection to assure consumers that local milk supplies were free of chemical contamination.

Australian regulators were testing China-made sweets and other products for traces of melamine.

Judith Wang contributed to this article
For more on melamine visit ICIS chemical intelligence
To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect 

By: Leon Toh
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