Authorities in Ningxia have closed two milk collection stations after a public outcry following reports that they had collected raw milk illegally from small dairy farmers. But a senior official at the region's agriculture and animal husbandry bureau rejected media reports that the collection points had operated without official approval, and said there was no reason to fear another milk-contamination scandal. A posting on the popular Tianya online forum last week said unlawful milk collections had been revived in the suburbs of Yinchuan , Ningxia's capital. High-resolution photos were posted showing milk collected from private farmers being dumped into dirty iron cans at the two collection stations. No examinations or quality-control tests were conducted during the collection process, according to the posting. The allegation has hit a raw nerve with the public, yet to recover from the scare over contaminated dairy products last year. It quickly stirred an outcry on the internet after several newspapers, including the Guangdong-based Guangzhou Daily and Yangcheng Evening News, picked up the story this week. 'If not handled properly, the alleged illegal milk collection in Ningxia could turn into another Sanlu milk-contamination incident, which looks set to damage the credibility of China's dairy industry and even deal a fatal blow to its slow recovery,' said a commentary in the International Finance News, a newspaper controlled by the People's Daily. Milk products tainted with the industrial chemical melamine killed six babies and made hundreds ill last year. The Ministry of Agriculture has sent officials to investigate the new incident. Zhou Dongning , deputy director of the Ningxia bureau, admitted yesterday that the milk stations in the video were shut because they had breached hygiene rules, 'but what I want to make very clear is that they are authorised milk stations set up by two local milk-powder factories'. He insisted media reports unfairly ignored his government's efforts to ensure the quality of dairy products. According to Zhou, 184 of 670 milk stations in the region have been closed since September last year for various quality-related problems. 'We are working around the clock to meet the goal set by the Agriculture Ministry, that all private milk farmers must be merged into big dairy producers by November.' Xinhua said nearly 4,000 milk stations across the country had been shut by July for failing to meet safety standards.