Melamine-tainted drinks emerge in China again

Authorities in central China are searching for a batch of dairy products containing high levels of melamine, the chemical that killed six babies and sickened 300 000 others in 2008, state media said on Monday.

The government in Hubei province’s Xiangfan city has asked all local businesses to look for 50 packages of a corn-flavoured dairy drink, the official China Daily newspaper reported.

Tests showed the melamine levels in the drinks were high, suggesting that the chemical—which is normally used in making plastics—was deliberately added during the production process, the report said.

It was not clear how many individual drinks were in one package.

The report said the company that made the drinks being sought in Hubei had bought milk powder as a raw material from a supplier in another province without knowing it was tainted with melamine.

China’s dairy industry was rocked in 2008 by revelations that melamine was added to powdered milk to make it appear higher in protein content, sickening babies and causing worldwide recalls of products containing Chinese dairy.

The government said at the time it had destroyed all tainted milk powder and gave the all-clear, but reports of melamine-laced products have regularly re-emerged since then.

In July, authorities in China said they found 25 000 tonnes of milk powder tainted with melamine earlier this year.

Earlier this month authorities in Beijing sentenced the father of one of the children sickened in 2008 to two and a half years in prison.

Zhao Lianhai was jailed for seeking to cause “public disturbances” after he campaigned for compensation for victims of the scandal.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for Lianhi said his client has dismissed his lawyers and apparently won’t appeal his jail term.

Lianhai was found guilty of inciting social disorder and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail. He vowed to appeal and began a prison hunger strike in protest against the Beijing court ruling earlier this month.

His lawyer, Peng Jian, said Zhao told him Monday that he no longer required legal representation.
Peng said Lianhi’s family told him that Lianhi would not be appealing the November 10 verdict and that they supported his decision.—Sapa-AFP

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