More Contaminated Milk Found in China

China’s largest dairy company announced that it isolated and destroyed a batch of milk contaminated with a carcinogenic substance, according to The New York Times:

The contaminated milk was discovered by a government agency that ran spot tests on the milk on Saturday. Mengniu, which has operations in Sichuan Province, posted two notices on its Web site on Sunday apologizing to customers and saying that the rest of its products were safe.

The substance in the bad batch of milk was aflatoxin, which is produced by a food fungus.

Starting Sunday, news of the milk became the most popular topic on Sina Weibo, a microblog service. As of Monday morning, people had posted or copied posts on the bad milk nearly four million times.

China’s quality regulator disclosed that mildewed feed caused the tainted product in question to contain high levels of the cancer-causing agent. From Bloomberg:

The level of aflatoxin M1 in a batch of milk produced by Mengniu was more than double the nation’s permitted level, an unidentified official at the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in an interview with the official Xinhua News Agency posted on the regulator’s website. The amount in one of Changfu’s milk products was almost twice the standard, the official said.

China has ordered local regulators to toughen inspections of milk products for the toxin and to recall them if it is found to be present, and dairy companies to strengthen production and supply-chain management, according to the interview. The measures build on government efforts to ensure food safety after tainted milk, reprocessed oil waste and an illegal additive in pork fueled public fear over food safety.

China’s quality watchdog tested 200 types of milk products made by 128 companies in 21 provinces this year and 198 types passed the inspection, according to the Xinhua interview dated yesterday. One batch produced by Mengniu on Oct. 18 and another made by Changfu on Oct. 8 were found to be tainted, it said.

China’s Global Times reports that Mengniu’s statement of apology on its Web site did little to quell public anger:

“An apology makes no difference. I will not choose Mengniu anymore,” Li Ying, 28, an employee in a law firm in Beijing, told the Global Times.

“I am truly shocked and worried at the news. I just drank a box of milk from Mengniu. How could they make such a big mistake?” said Li, who is seven months pregnant.

“I wonder if there is any lawyer who plans to sue Mengniu. If so, I will support them unconditionally,” Yu Jianrong, a sociologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Monday on his Sina microblog.

The Chinese government honed in on the dairy industry, which has struggled to recover from a 2008 milk contamination scandal, as part of a campaign to improve consumer safety standards and awareness this year. See also CDT coverage of American beverage giant Coca-Cola, which came under fire earlier this month after a young boy in northeast China died from a poisoned yogurt drink it manufactures.