Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Infant Formula Scandal Widens

Illnesses due to tainted milk powder now exceed 6,000 and 3 deaths.

Powder from the biggest dairy companies in China have all tested positive for adulteration with melamine. Test results showed melamine present in samples of 69 products from 22 brands of milk powder tested, 14% of the products and 20% of the brands tested. There were 87 brands that were free of melamine in the tests. According to the State Council, there are 175 milk powder producers nationwide, of which 66 have stopped production. The 69 products that tested positive are not allowed to leave the factory.

All 11 Sanlu brand samples tested positive with far higher concentration of melamine than any other brand. The two biggest companies were not free of melamine but were not among the worst performers: Yili had 1 out of 38 samples test positive and Mengniu had 3 out of 28 positive. Sanlu's concentration of 2563 mg/kg was much higher than 68.2 mg/kg for Mengniu and 12 mg/kg for Yili.

The vice-secretary and mayor of Shijiazhuang City (headquarters of the Sanlu company) have been fired. The general manager of Sanlu Group has been detained by police.

Local commerce bureaus are requiring supermarkets to check for contaminated formula products and factories are required to inspect all their raw milk.

In Shenzhen, the local commerce bureau is keeping a close watch on infant formula prices, especially on imported formula--to prevent hoarding. In other words, imported formula is the only kind that is assuredly safe, so officials anticipate that there will be a rush buy imported powder. They want to prevent merchants from raising prices to take advantage of the situation. We economists predict that there will be no imported infant formula on supermarket shelves within a few days.

The local commerce bureau in Shenzhen is also requiring that merchants accept returned infant formula and refund consumers' money upon presentation of a receipt. If the consumer doesn't have the receipt, the bureau requires merchants to check records and give a refund anyway.

In Beijing, the health department issued a notice that affected babies will be checked, treated, and provided medication free of charge.

According to kidney experts, the melamine-contaminated powder only affects children and is not affecting adults who consume it (so far). The State Council says melamine is low in toxicity, doesn't stay in the body long and affects mainly the kidneys and bladder.

No comments: