China Milk Scandal Widens as Melamine Found in Yogurt (Video added; Update: 3rd death reported)

Melamine, the same chemical at the center of the Sanlu milk controversy, has been found in Yili brand yogurt. Bloomberg reports:

Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department found melamine in Yili’s “Natural Choice Yogurt Ice-bar with Real Fruit,” Wellcome said in its statement. The supermarket operator said it will stop selling all Yili brand ice cream as a precaution.

Other products made by the dairy company will still be for sale, according to Annie Sin, Wellcome’s marketing and communication manager. Wellcome had sold Yili ice cream products in some of its more than 250 stores in Hong Kong, Sin said.

People who answered the 24-hour hot line of the Food and Environmental Hygiene’s Center for Food Safety in Hong Kong said no statement had been issued and that they couldn’t comment.

Meanwhile, state media is reporting that 20% of dairy companies investigated in the wake of the Sanlu scandal have been found to have produced baby formula tainted with melamine, according to a Reuters report.

The following was posted on Duowei News, translated by CDT:

Chinese Infant Formula Scandal Widens

In recent days Chinese officials have tried to shift all responsibility in the ongoing tainted infant milk formula scandal onto the Sanlu Group, publicizing the fact that the company knew about the tainted milk products for six weeks but tried to cover up the situation. This effort is an attempt to turn public opinion against the corporation and away from criticism of the government to prevent damaging China’s image after the Olympics.

A well-known domestic Chinese portal website sent a journalist to report in an ongoing column from the Sanlu headquarters, but on Sunday September 14 all articles regarding the case were removed. An employee of the website confirmed that the Central Propaganda Department Internet Bureau issued a directive to remove all references to this sensitive case, and ordered the reporter recalled to Beijing. China’s three major web portals–Sina, Netease, and Sohu–on Sunday September 14 contained only official reports on the ongoing scandal, tantamount to maintaining conspicuous silence in the face of “ten thousand booming cannons” criticizing the corporation and lax official oversight surrounding the case.

A local netizen expressed outrage: “That Sanlu manufactured faulty products is no surprise. What is disgusting is that the government is manufacturing its own lies, trying to shift exclusive blame to the company and imposing an information blackout, they are a pack of scoundrels!” A netizen said of the regime: “They are trying to direct all the incoming fire at Sanlu Group, and trying to shrink into the background themselves for fear of the consequences!” The New Zealand dairy conglomerate Fonterra is 43 percent owner of the Chinese milk products corporation Sanlu. On Sunday September 14 Fonterra issued a statement saying that six weeks ago it knew that Sanlu’s baby formula powder was tainted, and that they called on Sanlu to publicize the problem and to comprehensively recall all the tainted products at that time. But they received no response from their local Chinese partners. The statement also expresses the desire on the part of Fonterra to meet with Chinese officials and discuss the problem directly.

– See also “New Zealand PM says milk scandal hushed up for weeks” from Danwei and “China Starts Censoring Tainted Milk Powder Scandal Reporting” from VOA, translated via China Free Press:

In the face of the extremely negative social impact of the Sanlu milk products scandal, the Chinese government has weighed the pros and cons and as a result begun to tighten its hold on reporting, only allowing State-run media to use official Xinhua News Agency reports on the matter.

Voice of America quoted a China Central Television source as saying that last Friday, September 12, Chinese media received notification that they could only use official Xinhua News Service reports on the scandal. Reporters have also revealed that an official circular has been issued to all media organizations emphasizing that it is better for them not to publish any reports or commentaries on the fact that the tainted milk products have resulted in kidney stones in children.

The report said that Hebei media has carried no reports, because the Hebei Province Propaganda Department already issued an order for provincial media to not “speculate” in such reporting.

The Associated Press is reporting that China’s health minister announced a 3rd child death Wednesday as a result of tainted milk.

September 16, 2008 9:38 AM
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