Friday, 3 October 2008

More candy from China, tainted, is in U.S. (IHT)

SHANGHAI: More contaminated Chinese candy was discovered in the United States on Wednesday, this time in Connecticut, where consumer protection officials issued a public warning against eating the sticky sweet.
In China, meanwhile, a couple filed a lawsuit against the company at the center of the scandal despite efforts by the authorities to keep it out of the courts.
The discovery in Connecticut involved the White Rabbit Creamy Candy brand, which is made in Shanghai and has already been pulled from stores in Britain and many Asian countries. Jerry Farrell Jr., Connecticut's consumer protection commissioner, announced that contaminated candy was found at two stores in New Haven, a market in West Hartford and a store in East Haven. In each case, testing found traces of an industrial additive, melamine, in the candy.
"We're concerned, obviously, there may have been bags sold of these before we got to them," Farrell said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.
Last month, the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers about White Rabbit candy, and in California, health officials have found traces of melamine after testing samples of White Rabbit. The American distributor of the candy has already ordered a recall, but some candy may still remain in stores.
Melamine is a chemical additive at the heart of China's contaminated dairy scare. It is used to make plastics and fertilizers, but it is sometimes illegally mixed into food products, including milk, because its high levels of nitrogen can help fool tests that measure protein levels.
In September, Chinese authorities acknowledged that more than 53,000 Chinese infants had been sickened after consuming powdered baby formula that had been contaminated with melamine. Of that total, 13,000 were hospitalized and four have died.
Initially, the contamination seemed isolated to powdered baby formula as the state media focused on one company, the Sanlu Group, as the worst offender. But officials then announced that tests had found traces of melamine in formula produced by 21 other Chinese dairy companies.
This week, the list of offenders grew longer as new government tests found traces of melamine in some batches of dairy products produced by 15 other companies, according to news agency reports. And traces of melamine have also been found in limited samples of yogurt and other products made with Chinese dairy ingredients.
The scandal has focused widespread public anger at the government. Beijing has sought to blame dairy companies and local officials, especially in Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital where the Sanlu Group has its headquarters. This week, People's Daily, the authoritative newspaper of the Communist Party, carried an unusual article in which a spokesman in Shijiazhuang apologized but also accused officials at Sanlu of asking for a cover-up of the problem in August, shortly before the beginning of the Olympics.
The People's Daily article never addressed whether city officials participated in a cover-up but stated that they did not inform higher officials in the province of the problem until a month later.
Meanwhile, Caijing, one of China's leading independent magazines, reported this week that the parents of a 1-year-old boy had sued the Sanlu Group because the infant developed kidney stones after drinking the company's powdered baby formula. The parents, who reside in Henan Province in central China, are asking for $22,000 in compensation. However, Caijing reported that the local court had yet to accept their lawsuit, a tactic often used in China's legal system to prevent politically delicate subjects from being litigated.
For weeks, several defense lawyers in Beijing have been besieged with requests from parents to file lawsuits related to the scandal. One lawyer, Li Fangping, said his office had received more than 1,200 inquiries from parents. But Li said that the city's legal association had advised lawyers not to file lawsuits in the matter.

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