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China firms selling tainted food

BEIJING, Jan 25 – Melamine-laced milk products have been found on sale in China, state media said Monday, more than a year after the chemical was blamed for six deaths in a huge scandal over contaminated dairy goods.

Authorities in the southwestern province of Guizhou found that products made by three Chinese food companies contained illegally high levels of the toxic substance, the China Daily said.

It quoted a former dairy industry official as saying it was likely more tainted goods remained in supermarkets despite a major recall after the 2008 scandal, which highlighted China\’s persistent product safety problems.

The suspect products in Guizhou have been pulled from stores, the China Daily said, adding that the firms involved blamed milk powder bought from suppliers.

The report illustrated the apparent continued threat from tainted dairy goods long after the 2008 discovery that the industrial chemical — which can in large quantities cause kidney failure and lead to death — was being abused by food producers.

At that time, melamine was found to have been added to milk to give the appearance of a higher protein content and was blamed for killing six infants and making nearly 300,000 others sick, according to official figures.

The scare led to products containing Chinese dairy being taken off shelves around the world. A total of 21 people were reportedly convicted of wrongdoing, with two executed and others sentenced to jail terms.

But other cases have since surfaced.

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The state press revealed earlier this month that Shanghai Panda Dairy had been shut down again over melamine-tainted milk products. The company had been blacklisted and closed over the 2008 scandal but was allowed to reopen.

Three Chinese executives with the company could face trial as early as next month on charges of making and selling hazardous foods, a spokesman in the Shanghai prosecutors\’ office has said.

The China Daily said the products found in Guizhou were made in March and April of 2009, months after the government declared an all-clear.

The three companies involved — in separate locations across north and east China — were Zibo Lusaier Dairy Company, Tieling Wuzhou Food Company and the Laoting Kaida Refrigeration Plant, it said.

It said the goods included "popsicles" produced by two of the companies but gave no other specifics.

Staff at the Guizhou provincial health department denied the report when contacted by AFP.

Ling Hu, a spokeswoman with the Guizhou provincial government, said officials there were looking into the allegations but declined further comment.

AFP could not immediately reach officials at the three companies.

The China Daily quoted Wang Dingmian, former chairman of the Guangdong Provinical Dairy Association in southern China, as suggesting "leftover" tainted dairy goods were likely still circulating despite the earlier recall.

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"The problems were not totally solved. From this point, it\’s inevitable to see new problems popping out," he said.

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