Melamine Reprise: Who Knew What When?
Signs are now emerging that authorities may have been aware of the recent Shanghai Panda Dairy Co Ltd tainted milk scandal for up to eight months before releasing information to the media. The Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time blog reports:
Even getting a clear picture from authorities about the Shanghai Panda case has proved elusive. The Shanghai Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision reportedly led the action against the company. But so far it hasn’t issued any public statement. A quality bureau spokesman directed The Wall Street Journal to the Shanghai Municipal Health Bureau for answers. There, an official pointed toward the local Food and Drug Administration, where a spokesman suggested that the Journal telephone back to the quality agency or the municipal government. At the muncipal government’s news office, a spokeswoman said the quality bureau is in charge.
State media reports raise other questions about the government’s urgency in the case.
The three Shanghai Panda executives, for instance, have already been prosecuted and are being sued, not normally a simple matter. Also pointing to a drawn-out process, state press reports said several government agencies were involved in an investigation of the company, which was one of the 22 dairies implicated in the 2008 scandal and was temporarily closed then.
On Tuesday a new twist emerged, as 21st Century Business Herald reported (here in Chinese) that it has documents to suggest industry participants were aware of melamine use by Shanghai Panda as early as April 2009. The same report said that in November, China’s minister of health, Chen Zhu, referred to melamine tainting by the company during an internal meeting of Communist Party officials.