China detains 22 in milk case
SHANGHAI: China said Monday that it had detained 22 people suspected of operating an underground network that intentionally adulterated milk with an industrial chemical, melamine. The contamination has led to the nation's worst food safety crisis in decades.
The announcement, carried by the official Xinhua News Agency, was the third regarding a mass detention of suspects in the contamination, which has sickened more than 50,000 children, caused the deaths of at least four from kidney stones, and led to recalls of products in China and abroad suspected of containing adulterated Chinese milk powder.
On Sept. 14, the government said 19 people had been detained, and on Sept. 19 it reported the detention of 12 more. The government did not explain in the Monday announcement how many suspects in all had been detained in the investigation, or whether some had been included in the earlier announcements.
The announcement said police officers in northern China, the nation's biggest dairy production area, had raided more than 40 dairy farms and milk stations in Hebei Province and seized more than 220 kilograms, or 485 pounds, of melamine, a chemical commonly used to make plastics and fertilizer. Melamine can also be used to illegally inflate the nutrition value of foods by fooling testers measuring protein levels.
The government accused the group of operating as a kind of criminal syndicate, producing melamine in underground factories and then marketing it to dairy farms and milking stations in Hebei Province to adulterate the milk for profit.
The announcement was the government's latest effort to calm fears after some of the nation's biggest dairy producers had been blamed for selling infant milk formula adulterated with melamine to save money.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao vowed to strengthen regulation and clean up the nation's $18 billion dairy industry, which had been booming in recent years because of government-backed efforts to get children to consume more milk.
Over the past week, a growing number of global companies have been drawn into the scandal after tests showed that some of their foods had also been produced with melamine-tainted milk products originating in China.
On Monday, Cadbury PLC, one of the world's biggest confectioners, said that some of the chocolate it sells in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia had tested positive for melamine. The company said those products had all been produced in its Beijing facility, and the products affected, including dark chocolate and Cadbury Eclairs, had not been exported to other countries.
"We have been monitoring the developing situation with regard to the contamination of dairy products with melamine in China with concern and the greatest sympathy for all those affected," Cadbury, which is based in Britain, said in a news release. "As a result, we believe it is appropriate to take a precautionary step to withdraw from the market all of our Cadbury chocolate products that have been manufactured in Beijing."
Most of China's dairy exports are shipped to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan and other parts of Asia, though in an increasingly globalized world, some goods made with Chinese dairy products could also easily end up in the United States and Europe, which has led regulators there to issue warnings.
In China, though, the milk scare has set off a minor panic. In Hebei Province alone, where the scandal is centered because it is the location of the headquarters of the Sanlu Group, the country's biggest maker of infant milk formula, more than 200,000 children had been brought into hospitals to be checked for melamine contamination or kidney stone problems over the past few weeks.
Since announcing last week that about 53,000 children had been affected by melamine-tainted dairy goods, the Chinese government has not updated the number of victims, nor has it held a news conference in recent days detailing its findings.
But in recent days the government has tried to assure consumers that the country's dairy supply is safe, reporting that hundreds of tests conducted after Sept. 14 and involving some of the biggest dairy makers had not detected melamine.
Melamine is the same chemical blamed last year for sickening thousands of pets in the United States. Regulators later discovered that the animals had consumed pet food ingredients that had intentionally been spiked with melamine in China, apparently in an effort to save money by substituting real protein with melamine.
On Monday, the government said one suspect had admitted producing melamine as "protein powder" since last year, and another had admitted helping sell the powder to milking stations.
Unilever recalls Lipton milk tea powder in Hong Kong
BEIJING: Global consumer goods group Unilever said on Tuesday that it was recalling some of its Lipton-brand milk tea powder in Hong Kong and Macau after it was found to contain traces of melamine.
Unilever Hong Kong said in a statement that it had decided to recall four batches of Lipton Milk Tea sold in the two markets after internal checks found traces of melamine, an industrial chemical.
The move was meant to comply with local regulations and as a precautionary measure, the firm said, adding that no other Lipton milk tea powder products were affected.
"As far as Unilever China is concerned, based on our stringent quality control processes and additional rigorous and systematic testing by local Chinese authorities, we are fully confident with the safety of our products in China," Unilever said.
A growing list of Chinese milk and milk-related products have been taken off shelves in recent weeks after it came to light that some milk had been contaminated with melamine, leading to thousands affected and four deaths.
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