Tag Archives: food safety

China Passes Food-Safety Law

China has passed its first food-safety law, and established a cabinet-level commission to oversee it. The idea is to create a national set of food-safety standards under one regulator and put more legal liability on China’s 500,000 food producers.

How effective it is and whether it will reassure consumers whose confidence has been left in tatters following a succession of scandals, notably melamine-tainted infant formula last year, remains to be seen. The lesson from food-safety regimes around the world is that it is employing the inspectors and having the political will to enforce the regulations that matters more than having the law on the books. But having the law is a start.

2 Comments

Filed under Economy, Product Safety

Compensation For Melamine-Poisoned Babies Coming

A hint of compensation to come for families whose children were affected by melamine-tainted baby formula.

A Health ministry announcement of a four-month nationwide food safety campaign said that a compensation package for victims was being worked on,  China Daily reports. The government has formed a team to handle the compensation issue, consisting  of officials of several central government departments and led by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

The ministry also admitted that food-safety issues were endemic:

“The tainted-milk scandal shows illegal production of food products and the use of non-food substances are not isolated incidents. Instead, they are quite typical of the industry,” Vice-Minister of Health Chen Xiaohong said during a national teleconference in Beijing.

For those of you marking your dance cards, the food-safety campaign will have  three phases: From tomorrow to Jan 10, companies will be asked to conduct self-examination and correction. From January 11 to March 10, law enforcement officers will raid high-risk food producers or regions, and intensify random checks on markets. From March 11 to April 10, the focus will be on illegal food-additive producers and cutting off the supply of high-risk non-food substances.

We’ll see.

Leave a comment

Filed under Product Safety

Death Toll From Tainted Baby Formula Officially Raised To Six

The Health Ministry now says that six deaths can be attributed to tainted baby milk powder and that 294,000 infants were hospitalized after drinking the melamine-contaminated formula.

That is a large advance on the last numbers made public, in September, when the scandal first broke: four dead and 53,000 hospitalized. In October, without updating those numbers, the ministry had said that 10,066 children remained in hospital with eight in serious condition. It says now that 861 are still admitted, and that 154 were in serious condition. Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that the death toll from the tainted formula was at least five higher than official figure.

Apart from raising the official number to six, the ministry says it investigated five other deaths but ruled out melamine as the cause. The new numbers are not likely to dissipate the anger being expressed by bereaved parents or their frustration at the obstacles being put in their way in seeking legal redress.

Meanwhile, China’s dairy exports have all but come to standstill; down 92% in October compared to the same month a year earlier, as countries put import bans in place. Those imposed by the U.S. will be on the agenda at the scheduled bilateral meeting in Beijing later this week — one reason the new numbers may have come out now.

1 Comment

Filed under Economy, Politics & Society, Product Safety

U.S. Tightens Import Restrictions On Foods From China

The U.S. has expanded its import controls on Chinese foods that is suspects might be contaminated with melamine. The U.S Food and Drug Administration has issued a nationwide import alert that applies to all milk products, all milk derived ingredients and all finished food products containing milk. Previously, its controls applied only to specific products. From the FDA’s November 13 notice:

FDA analyses have detected melamine and cyanuric acid in a number of products that contain milk or milk-derived ingredients, including candy and beverages.  In addition, information received from government sources in a number of countries indicates a wide range and variety of products from a variety of manufacturers have been manufactured using melamine-contaminated milk or milk-derived ingredients, including: fluid and powdered milk, yogurt, frozen desserts, biscuits, cakes and cookies, taffy-like soft candy products, chocolates, and beverages. These products appear to contain at least one milk-derived ingredient and they are of Chinese origin.  Reports of contamination have come from more than thirteen countries in Asia, Europe, and Australia, in addition to the United States.

The FDA also says that bulk vegetable protein products were found in 2007 to be contaminated with melamine, apparently from deliberate contamination, which has not, as far as this Bystander can recall, been widely reported before.

Chinese products currently being held in U.S. ports include baby food, baked goods, breakfast food, candies, chocolate products, cheese, ice cream, beverages, pet food and lab-animal food. Melamine has been found in candy and crackers but there are no reports of illness in the U.S. yet. Why the FDA has acted now may have more to do with the U.S. presidential interregnum, than changes in food safety concerns. It will certainly give top food safety officials from both countries something to talk about next week when they meeting in Beijing ahead of the FDA opening three offices in China.

Leave a comment

Filed under China-U.S., Product Safety

Hong Kong Finds More Melamine-Tainted Eggs

The melamine-tainted eggs are getting to be like the melamine-tainted baby formula.

First there was one manufacturer whose products were found to be contaminated. Then there were many. Tests in Hong Kong have found three more brands of Chinese eggs containing high levels of the chemical. This all suggests the problems with food safety still run wide and deep, and that melamine has got into the animal feed supply chain.

Another similarity: a potential cover-up. Officials in Liaoning many have known of the problem eggs as long as a month ago, according to Beijing news reports, and imposed a news blackout. All sadly familiar sounding, and symptomatic of a food safety system that is responding slowly, if at all, to Beijing’s attempts to reform it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Product Safety

HK Extends Melamine Testing After Finding Chemical In Chinese Eggs

The melamine-tainted food scare just keeps on spreading. Hong Kong said tody that it is expanding its testing to include meat products imported from China after discovering excessive levels of the chemical in eggs yesterday.

The eggs, from Dalian Hanwei Enterprise Group, contained 4.7 parts per million of melamine, almost double the permitted maximum of 2.5 ppm, though only a hundredth of the levels found in some tainted diary products. The suspicion is that the contamination came from feed given to chickens that laid the eggs.

Last week, China’s health ministry said that more than 3,600 children remain sick after consuming melamine-tainted formula. Three are in serious condition.

Leave a comment

Filed under Product Safety

New Figures For Melamine-Related Illnesses

China had stopped updating the figures for the number of babies sickened after drinking melamine-contaminated infant formula. Last commonly quoted numbers were four dead and 53,000 hospitalized. But in announcing new permissible levels of melamine in foods on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said that 10,066 children remained hospitalized with eight in serious condition. No new deaths had been recorded.

The new guidelines on melamine levels allow one part per million in infant formula and 2.5 parts per million in other foodstuffs containing at least 15% milk. Those levels are in line with international standards. Melamine levels found in tainted batches of infant formula in China have been as high as 6,000 parts per million. The Health Ministry says trace amounts of the chemical can leach into products from packaging and the environment. Trace amounts should be harmless to humans. Cutting melamine into foods remains illegal, the ministry says.

Next health scandal to watch? BBC reports that three people have died after receiving herbal ginseng injections in Yunnan. The ginseng injection was manufactured by Wandashan Pharmaceutical, based in Heilongjiang. The BC report quotes the State Food and Drug Administration as saying it has isolated two problematic batches of the extract, made from a herb called “ciwujia”, and has urged immediate nationwide reporting of any adverse effects.

1 Comment

Filed under Politics & Society

Missing Melamine

The concerning thing about Cadbury’s recall of its chocolates made with milk tainted with melamine is that all of the dairy suppliers to Cadbury’s Beijing plant had earlier been given the all-clear by the Chinese testing. It was the company’s own tests that uncovered the traces of melamine, although the source and extent is not yet clear. ‘We have received results that cast doubt on the integrity of a range of our products manufactured in China,” the company said.

Cadbury has recalled 11 products sold in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia.

3 Comments

Filed under Economy

More Tainted Dairy Products, More Anger, Less Confidence

It now not just melamine in baby formula from one company sold in three provinces, but in dairy products nationwide, and beyond. Chinese dairy products are being pulled off shelves in Hong Kong and Japan. Malaysia and Singapore have banned Chinese milk imports.

At home, consumer outrage is growing. Beijing has ordered free medical treatment for any baby sickened by tainted formula, and hotlines for worried parents have been set up in eight provinces, Xinhua reports. Central government has also extended testing of dairy products and recalls, and promised exemplary punishments for company executive and officials found culpable.

The death toll now stands at four infants, with dozens of babies still in serious condition among the more than 6,200 stricken with kidney stones after consuming tainted formula.

Nearly 10% of milk and drinking yoghurt samples from three leading dairy companies contained melamine, according to the General Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection. None of which will help shore up public trust at home or abroad already shaken by a series of food scares in recent years involving eggs, pork and seafood.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics & Society

Handling The Baby Formula Crisis

Props to the PR-focused blog Imagethief for two excellent posts on how the baby milk scandal has been handled, Sanlu Melamine Milk Powder Crisis Becomes A National Issue and Melamine In Sanlu Milk Powder? Now That’s A Crisis!. Well worth the read.

Key point: “Only an irresponsible PR agency proposes suppressing bad news as the core of a PR strategy. That’s not rebuilding or defending a reputation. That’s admitting you can’t help. But suppressing news is an old tradition here, handed down from the highest levels.”

Situation update:  Health Minister Chen Zhu says 6,244 infants are ill after consuming the tainted formula as of 8 a.m. on Wednesday, five times the previously announced number. They include 158 with acute kidney failure, of which 94 were in stable condition. That implies 64 are now in serious condition.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics & Society