India bans Chinese milk products as WHO expresses concern news
26 September 2008

India today joined the rank of nations in banning milk and milk products from China as World Health Organisation said that it was a deliberate failure on China's part of not alerting the world on the risks of health care over tainted Chinese dairy products.

Based on the recommendations given by the Indian Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSA) the directorate general of foreign trade (DGFT) banned the imports of Chinese milk and milk products for a period of three months and directed all state governments, airports and seaports to get the stocks within their jurisdiction tested at the Central Revenue Chemical Laboratories before being letting it in the country.

The ban is a precautionary measure as India does not import milk or milk products from China.

High ranking officials of the health and family welfare, ministry of agriculture and the commerce and industry ministry attended a meeting convened by the FSSA where it pushed for the ban. India had banned meat and poultry products from avian influenza-affected countries a few days back.

The World Health Organisation and the UNICEF also voiced their alarm about the adulteration of Chinese milk and the implications it has on other food products using this milk.

Hans Troedsson, China representative at the WHO, told reporters in Beijing today that the problem escalated by the Chinese authorities delaying in reporting the matter and said, "these delays were probably a combination of ignorance and deliberate failure to report.''

The Chinese milk scandal has claimed four infant deaths and has hospitalised more than 50,000 after being fed contaminated milk powder when Chinese local authorities ignored warnings by Fonterra, the New Zealand-based minority shareholder of the Chinese manufacturer, Sanlu, about the adulteration. Sanlu refused to recall the product.

The milk powder was mixed with the chemical melamine, which is rich in nitrogen and is often measured as an indicator of protein levels. But the chemical can have serious health effects on humans. It is widely used in making plastics and fertilisers and has been used by Chinese businesses to artificially boost protein readings in animal feed and other food products.

The Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) found the high level of contamination, after testing the compound that has so far been the cause of death of four infants.

22 Chinese companies who tested the samples showed the presence of melamine in samples of liquid milk too and an investigation launched by the Chinese authorities has discovered the contamination was not restricted to only Sanlu's baby formula as originally thought.

China has since then fired its top quality regulator and arrested Sanlu's top man along with 18 others who were involved in adulterating the milk with melamine or selling it. (See: China's quality chief resigns over toxic baby-milk scandal

New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark who disregarded the local Chinese authorities and directly informed the central government in Beijing when local officials refused to recall the adulterated milk has joined Australia in recalling the popular Chinese White Rabbit milk-based candy.

British supermarket chain Tesco has removed it off its shelves as samples tested positive for melamine in Singapore and New Zealand.

Since then a whole host of countries such as Bangladesh, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Burundi, Kenya and Gabon have put a maximum or partial ban on Chinese dairy imports or foods that may contain milk. Vietnam has ordered testing of all Chinese milk products and pulled several thousand gallons of milk from supermarket shelves.

The European Union has announced a total ban on imports of any baby food products from China that contain traces of milk, although it does not import Chinese infant milk powder, and has intensified inspection of composite products like bread and chocolate coming from China.

The European Food Safety Agency based in Italy said, "In worst case scenarios with the highest level of contamination, children with high daily consumption of milk toffee, chocolate or biscuits containing high levels of milk products would exceed the tolerable daily intake."

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India bans Chinese milk products as WHO expresses concern