There are major health and safety issues involving Chinese milk tainted with melamine, a chemical used in making furniture and other goods, and it appears little is being done to solve the problem as has been widely reported. Several children were killed and more than 54,000 made sick in China. The United States, European Union, India, South Korea and a number of other countries have recalled or banned products, including milk from China, as a result. The Chinese milk-safety scandal exposes one of the pitfalls of a key strategy of the world’s big multinational food companies and that is relying on local suppliers in emerging markets. The Chinese government has been struggling to contain the scandal over the contamination of the dairy products. I am not real sure that very much progress is being made.
China has at least promised to ban milk and food products that do not meet newly-introduced standards for permissible levels of melamine. The government is trying to reassure consumers that the widespread tainted dairy scandal is under control. Clearly, China’s food exports have suffered significantly. More than 30 countries – from Europe to Asia and Africa – have banned, recalled or found contamination in Chinese dairy products.
Under the guidelines announced by the Chinese Health Ministry, melamine limits considered safe are set at one part per million for infant formula and 2.5 parts per million for liquid milk, milk powder and food products that contain more than 15% milk. A ministry official reported that any items containing higher levels will be “prohibited from sale.” Dairy suppliers in China were accused of watering down the milk and then adding melamine to make the product appear richer in protein so it could pass quality control tests.
Melamine, used in products including plastics, paint and adhesives, can lead to kidney stones and possibly life-threatening kidney failure. Melamine should never be used as an ingredient or additive in food products. Any supplier that allows melamine to be put into food products is asking for trouble. Prior to the milk scandal, there were no standards in China. Levels of melamine discovered in batches of milk powder recently registered as much as 6,196 parts per million, which is a highly dangerous level.
The Chinese Health Ministry has acknowledged that the country’s dairy industry was “chaotic” and suffered from a grave lack of oversight. It has pledged to monitor milk products from dairies to store shelves. Even before the uproar over contaminated milk, China’s manufacturing industry had been under intense scrutiny after the industrial chemical melamine and other industrial toxins were found last year in exports ranging from toothpaste to pet foods. The current crisis has forced the government to fire local and even high-level officials for negligence, while repeating earlier promises to raise product safety standards. Hopefully, there will be significant change in China that will create a system of controls designed to protect consumers on health and safety issues.
Source: Wall Street Journal
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