China's Milk Scandal Hits Western Brands

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By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

BEIJING, Sept. 29 -- China's tainted-milk scandal, which has led to bans or recalls in 16 countries and raised fresh concerns about the made-in-China label, spread Monday to big-name Western brands as British candymaker Cadbury announced a recall of its Chinese-made chocolate.

Cadbury said 11 types of chocolate bars made at its factory in Beijing and sold in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia were being recalled as a precautionary measure. Tests "cast doubt on the integrity of a range of our products manufactured in China," Cadbury said in a statement.

In Indonesia, Kraft Foods and Mars also said they would suspend sales of Chinese-made Oreo cookies, M&Ms and Snickers bars in that country. The sweets were among a dozen allegedly tainted products that tested positive for high levels of melamine last week, according to Indonesia's Food and Drug Monitoring Agency.

All three companies said none of their products were being recalled or suspended in the United States.

Both American food companies said they were mystified by the Indonesian test results, which reportedly found high levels of melamine -- the toxin that has been at the center of a widening scandal that has left four infants dead, sickened more than 54,000 babies and ensnared 22 Chinese dairy companies.

Kraft said none of its Oreo products worldwide, including those sold in Indonesia, are made with milk ingredients from China. The Oreo wafer product that tested positive in Indonesia tested negative in Malaysia, Thailand and Korea, a company spokesman said.

Mars said its two Chinese suppliers of milk power were not among the 22 tainted Chinese companies. Mars's milk powder tested negative for melamine at a lab in Germany, and its candy tested negative in Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand, a spokesman said.

Both U.S. companies have asked for clarification and additional testing from BPOM, the food safety agency in Indonesia.

Meanwhile, police in Hebei province arrested 22 people in an underground melamine-distribution network, the state-run New China News Agency said Monday. Hundreds of police conducted raids on pastures, breeding farms and milk-purchasing stations in the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang, seizing more than 480 pounds of melamine.

Shijiazhuang is home to Sanlu Dairy Co., the 50-year-old company that health officials say covered up the problem when complaints first started coming in from parents of sick children last December. Local doctors also issued warnings that went unheeded until a journalist posted Sanlu's name online at a Chinese social portal Sept. 11.

Since then, Chinese authorities have fired several municipal and provincial officials and forced the resignation of the head of its General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, who, during last year's food and product safety scandal, said that foreign companies needed to do a better job of testing products made in China.

Premier Wen Jiabao has apologized for the tainted-milk scandal, but he has also insisted that China does not "cover up."


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