100 tonnes of melamine-tainted milk powder seized

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 August, 2010, 12:00am

Mainland food safety authorities have seized more than 100 tonnes of melamine-tainted milk powder in several northern provinces in the past two months, raising concerns about how much contaminated powder that should have been destroyed in 2008 has leaked onto the market.

The government said all the tainted milk powder seized had been hidden by 'greedy and reckless lawbreakers'.

In the latest crackdown, 103 tonnes of contaminated milk powder, of four dairy brands, were found in the provinces of Hebei, Shanxi, and Tianjin municipality. A total of 41 suspects were arrested, Xinhua said.

An official said some local governments had been slack in destroying tainted milk powder as ordered by Beijing two years ago.

Local authorities were investigating the cases and officials involved would be punished for dereliction of duty, he said.

The latest cases come after two earlier discoveries of tainted milk powder hidden by dairy managers since 2008.

In July, the government said it had seized more than 100 tonnes of tainted milk powder from Dongyuan Dairy Factory in Minhe county, Qinghai. The government said on Friday that six suspects had been formally arrested in the Dongyuan case.

Dongyuan Dairy bought 48 tonnes of melamine-laced milk powder, that had been hidden by the chairman of a Hebei dairy factory since 2008, through two middlemen and hid them in abandoned warehouses and houses.

It then mixed 8.6 tonnes of the tainted milk powder with other milk powder and repackaged it under the Dongyuan brand name between April and June.

Officials had recovered 124 tonnes of that batch and were trying to track down the rest.

Melamine-tainted milk powder killed at least six children and made 300,000 others ill two years ago in the mainland's biggest food safety scandal which dealt a severe blow to the its booming dairy industry. Officials found tainted milk powder early last year at Shanghai Panda Dairy, but kept it secret for a year and only announced factory's shutdown in January. The government said all that tainted milk powder was from 2008.

In addition to seizures in Shanghai and Qinghai, authorities also found melamine-tainted milk powder in Heilongjiang province in June. A Heilongjiang food processing plant repackaged and processed 4.5 tonnes of tainted milk powder for its client, Lu Liang, in January. It then kept 10kg for itself and mixed it with milk powder it packaged for another client, Xu Zhixue. It is not clear if Xu was aware of the laced powder, but he later sold it to Jilin province. Jilin authorities discovered the scam and arrested Lu, Xinhua said.

The authorities have claimed they had found no new melamine-laced milk powder produced after the 2008 scandal and that all tainted milk powder seized was illegally kept from 2008.

Sickening scandal

300,000 children fell ill in the 2008 melamine milk powder scandal

The number of children who died was: 6