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Discovery of M e l a m I n e -Tainted Milk Shuts Shanghai Dairy |
SHANGHAI - Chinese authorities shut down a dairy producer here and arrested three of its executives after tests showed the company was producing milk powder contaminated with melamine, the same industrial chemical that in 2008 was blamed for one of this country's worst food safety scandals.
The announcement came just over two weeks after three other men were arrested at a dairy company far northwest of here, in S h a a n x i Province, that produced milk powder tainted with melamine.
The arrests suggest that regulators are more aggressively monitoring the dairy market after six children died and more than 300,000 others were sickened by melamine-tainted milk in the summer and autumn of 2008.
That scandal was a huge embarrassment for China and its regulators and led to international bans on imports of Chinese-made dairy goods, including cookies and candies.
But the recent cases also suggest that even after 20 of the country's biggest dairy producers were blamed for allowing melamine to taint their products in 2008, and even after several people were jailed and executed for their role in the scandal, the chemical continues to seep into the nation's dairy goods.
Here in Shanghai, city inspectors closed the Shanghai Panda Dairy Company on Thursday for producing milk that had "unacceptably high levels" of melamine, according to the state-run news media.
Shanghai officials said the melamine turned up in routine inspections in condensed milk and high-calcium milk powder that was marketed to middle-aged and elderly consumers.
Chinese law allows just a little over a milligram of melamine to be present in every pound of food product; any more threatens to cause kidney stones and other ailments, particularly in children.
The government said that Shanghai Panda was one of the companies on the government's melamine blacklist after the 2008 scandal, recording some of the highest levels of contamination. But the company was allowed to resume production after promises to strengthen its safety procedures.
Most of the country's large dairy companies suffered huge losses in 2008 because of their roles in the scandals.
Calls to Shanghai Panda's office in Shanghai were not answered. A Chinese Web site lists Shanghai Panda as a subsidiary of Z h e j i a n g Panda, though the relationship could not be confirmed.
Shanghai officials, though, said a sister company in western China, N i n g x i a Panda, was also being investigated because it was believed to have supplied some of the raw material for the milk powder and condensed milk.
The government said that batches of the tainted product were seized in Shanghai and that officials were sent to seven regions to locate other batches. But the government did not indicate where those regions were, and no recall was announced.
Shanghai Panda's general manager, deputy general manager and corporate representative were all arrested, according to Shanghai Daily, a state-run newspaper.
In the case earlier in December, the Chinese police arrested three men in Shaanxi Province for shipping five tons of melamine-tainted milk powder to Guangxi Province, in southern China.
In 2007, Chinese-made pet food ingredients tainted with melamine led to a similar scandal in the United States, sickening thousands of dogs and cats, some fatally, and leading to the biggest pet food recall in history.
Chen X i a o d u a n contributed research.