At least four children died and tens of thousands were made ill by drinking milk powder adulterated with melamine, prompting many worried parents to switch to foreign-made formula.
Melamine, a compound used in making plastic chairs among other uses, is added to food to cheat nutrition tests and has since been found in other dairy products, eggs and animal feed, prompting recalls of Chinese-made products around the world.
China's quality watchdog intercepted 191 batches of problem foreign goods in July, including milk powder and other dairy products made by Australian and South Korean companies, the Beijing News said, citing the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).
14 tons of imported milk failed bacteria standard
Nearly nine tons of "Ausnutria" brand milk powder produced by Australian dairy company Tatura Industries Ltd and supplied to an Australian-Chinese joint venture in southern Hunan province had failed a standard for E. sakazaki, a bacteria, according to a list posted on AQSIQ's website (aqsiq.gov.cn).
A company official at Tatura said the problem batch had passed quality inspections in Australia before being seized at Chinese customs. "The products never made it into the local market," said Tony McKenna, general manager of Nutritionals at Tatura.
"We've absolute faith in our quality systems, but we will comply with all of (the Chinese) requirements," McKenna said. More than 14 tons of "Pauls" brand milk imported from Australia had also failed a bacteria standard, the notice said.
"Pauls" milk is produced by Parmalat Australia Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Italian dairy giant Parmalat. Parmalat Australia said in a statement emailed to Reuters it had never been informed of any problems with its products by Chinese authorities.
Over 1 000kgs of cheese seized
"We are keen to assist in any way to clarify the issue, but it is unusual that the issue has just been raised now and only through the media," the statement said. "All Parmalat products are subject to stringent quality standards, passing quality inspections in Australia prior to export."
Authorities also seized more than 1 970kg of a brand of cheese supplied by an American company to Chinese dairy producer Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group, and other products ranging from British biscuits to chicken feet from Argentina.
It was not clear why the customs authority posted the list more than three months after the inspections, but the publication comes as China battles to improve its food safety system in the wake of a series of food and product-safety scandals. – (Reuters Health, November 2008)