September 29, 2008

Chinese Shops Recall Sweets After Toxic Chemical Crisis Spreads

By Clifford Coonan

CHINA'S CHILDREN love their "White Rabbit" sweets, a traditional reward for good behaviour or a school treat, but the confectioners Guanshengyuan have stopped domestic sales of the creamy candy after it was found to be laced with the toxic chemical melamine, the latest grim discovery in the scandal over Chinese dairy products.

Tainted foodstuffs have already turned up in Hong Kong and Japan while the EU has restricted Chinese imports and countries across Asia have taken similar steps.

Poisoned formula milk has killed four babies in China and affected more than 60,000. In recent days, there have been 10,000 new cases of children developing kidney problems after drinking the milk. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there has been a "deliberate failure" to report the contamination with melamine - a cheap industrial chemical normally used to make plastic or tan leather, but which can be used to cheat milk quality checks, with fatal consequences.

In Japan, Marudai Food has recalled products after they were found to contain melamine-laced Chinese milk - again food aimed at children, such as Cream Panda buns, was the problem.

In Starbucks' 300 cafes across China, the baristas have changed to using soy milk and many customers are switching to black coffee.

Two baby orang-utans and a lion cub at a zoo in eastern China have meanwhile developed kidney stones after being fed milk made from tainted powder, while two gorillas at the same zoo, the Hangzhou Wildlife World in Zhejiang province, are also sick.

In supermarkets, the scandal has led customers to question the safety of other foods, such as meat and vegetables. But the Xinhua news agency has said shoppers are slowly buying dairy products again after crisis management efforts.

The government, meanwhile, has fired its chief quality supervisor, stepped up inspection of dairy farms and seized more than 7,000 tons of contaminated products from stores.

Hans Troedsson, the WHO's China representative, has warned there could be more deaths. "This incident was aggravated by delays in reporting at a number of sources," he said. "These delays were probably a combination of ignorance and deliberate failure to report. We might be starting to see the end of it, because there is now vigorous testing, not only in China, but in other countries."

Chinese milk ban

International action

Countries that have banned or recalled China-made milk products: Bangladesh; Bhutan; Brunei; Burundi; Colombia; EU's 27 member states; Gabon; Ghana; India; Indonesia; Ivory Coast; Malaysia; Maldives; Nepal; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Singapore; South Korea; Suriname; Taiwan; Tanzania; Togo and Vietnam

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