Ministry says milk now melamine-free
Updated: 2011-05-16 09:10
By Zhou Wenting (China Daily)
BEIJING - The quality of the nation's fresh milk has improved and testing shows it is now free from melamine, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
The ministry, which oversees the production and collection of fresh milk, is responsible for ensuring its safety.
In an online notice issued by the ministry during the weekend, it said random tests conducted last year and during the first part of this year showed it was melamine-free and that quality was good. The ministry said it will carry out another special campaign soon to continue to guard against the use of the illegal additive.
Melamine is an industrial chemical that people have, at times, added to watered-down milk to make it appear to have a normal protein count.
"It shows the safety of fresh milk has significantly improved throughout the country," the ministry said.
During the past year, the ministry has taken steps to close sub-standard milk collection stations, which are partly blamed for the melamine scandal in 2008. It said it closed 6,890 milk collection stations nationwide during the campaign.
The 13,503 registered stations that remain and the 7,980 vehicles used to transport fresh milk are all now being operated under supervision.
The ministry has also trained some 5,000 dairy farmers and technicians on the technology used in the modern milk industry and explained the country's policies concerning dairy products.
However, experts questioned the thoroughness of the oversight.
"The government mainly cracks down on dairy farmers and milk collectors but pays little attention to milk's circulation, which involves distributors," Wang Dingmian, former vice-chairman of the Guangdong Provincial Dairy Association, told China Daily on Sunday.
Wang said milk distributors are in a state of anarchy and claimed no department has been trying to fill that regulatory gap.
Food safety experts also said the authority should make changes in the way it carries out spot checks so tainted milk does not slip through the loopholes.
"A good sample cannot ensure all the other products from the same batch are also good," said Sang Liwei, a food-safety lawyer in Beijing and a representative of the Global Food Safety Forum, a non-governmental organization.
Wang said, most of the time, dairy farms and businesses "make preparations for" the inspections. He claimed farms and businesses are warned by the local authorities to "be prepared" before the food safety commission swoops to conduct a spot check.
"The watchdog cannot see the real situation if the shady food processors are hidden and the safety loopholes still exist," Wang said.
Nationwide outrage about the safety of milk erupted in 2008 when melamine-tainted baby formula sickened about 300,000 infants and took the lives of six children who had kidney stones and other kidney damage.
Following the scandal, the government took steps to crack down on illegal practices in the dairy industry but reports about unsafe milk continue to surface from time to time.
Several dairy farms in Sanmen county, Zhejiang province, were recently found to have been adding illegal additives and using syringe bottles that had been discarded by hospitals as milk containers, according to the Oriental Morning Post on Sunday.
Earlier, police in Chongqing municipality confiscated 26,000 kilograms of milk powder that was tainted with melamine and that had been produced before 2009.
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