Asia Food Tainting Spreads, Leading to Recall in U.S.

The New York Times reports that the milk contamination crisis in China is going global as various countries, now including the U.S., recall products from China:

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday that some instant coffee and tea drinks, all containing a nondairy creamer made in China, had been recalled for fear of contamination. It is the first recall in the United States growing out of the melamine scare.

The F.D.A. said the King Car Food Industrial Company of Taiwan had called back seven products sold under the Mr. Brown label, mostly sold in stores specializing in Asian foods. The company’s tests in Taiwan had determined that its nondairy creamer, which was made in China, was contaminated by melamine, the F.D.A. said. No contaminated products have actually been found on American shelves.

The F.D.A. also said that it had itself extensively tested milk-based products imported from China into the United States in recent weeks. It said it had found no contamination so far.

Another article in the New York Times explains how the tainted milk powder remained on the market for so long after the contamination had been discovered by consumers:

Fu Jianfeng, an editor at one of China’s leading independent publications, Southern Weekend, recently used a personal blog to describe how his newsweekly discovered cases of sickened children in July — two months before the scandal became public — but could not publish articles so close to the Games.

“As a news editor, I was deeply concerned,” Mr. Fu wrote on Sept. 14. “I had realized that this was a large public health disaster, but I was not able to send reporters to do reporting.”

Even earlier, on June 30, a mother in Hunan Province had written a detailed letter pleading for help from the food quality agency, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. The letter, posted on the agency’s Web site, described rising numbers of infants at a local children’s hospital who were suffering from kidney stones after drinking powdered formula made by Sanlu.

The mother said she had already complained in vain to Sanlu and local officials.

Reuters interviews a feedmill owner in Hebei about the widespread practice of adding melamine to crops to increase the measurable protein levels:

Sun said he was not surprised when his meal was found to contain melamine as it was so widely used in Hebei and neighbouring Shandong province. He said he was the victim but was fined 30,000 yuan ($4,400) nevertheless.

“I have long wanted to test my products, but to test for melamine is expensive and it takes a long time,” he said, adding that testing one sample would cost more than 1,000 yuan ($145) — and then the laboratory cannot pinpoint the contamination to one ingredient in the meal.

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