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EU Bans Baby Food Made with Chinese Milk

Sep 26, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

The European Union (EU) banned imports of baby food containing Chinese milk Thursday when the toxic chemical melamine that has been illegally added to China’s dairy supplies was found in candy and other Chinese-made goods worldwide.

The EU, which is comprised of 27 nations, significantly adds to the growing list of countries that have banned or recalled Chinese dairy products over melamine contamination; melamine is responsible for killing four Chinese babies and sickening 54,000.  Three zoo babies developed kidney stones after being nursed with tainted milk powder for over a year and a lion cub and two baby orangutans were sickened after drinking infant formula made by the Sanlu Group Co., said Zhang Xu, a veterinarian with the Hangzhou Zhangxu Animal Hospital.  The European Commission is also calling for additional reviews on other Chinese food imports.

Sanlu-manufactured Chinese baby formula contaminated with melamine has been blamed for the deaths and illnesses.  Melamine, which is used to make plastics, pesticides, fire retardants, and fertilizers, can cause kidney stones and lead to kidney failure.  Infants are particularly vulnerable.

Melamine has been found in infant formula and other milk products from 22 Chinese dairy companies.  Suppliers trying to cut costs are believed to have added melamine to watered-down milk because its high nitrogen content makes products falsely appear to be protein-rich.  In addition to milk, ice cream, and cookies, melamine has also been found in samples of a popular chocolate-filled Koala-shaped cookie made by Lotte, in which China Foods Co. found melamine at levels 24 times the safety limit; yesterday, we reported that White Rabbit candies were also found to be tainted with melamine.  The candies were tainted with melamine at “unsatisfactory levels,” over six times the legal limit in a test of 67 dairy products. There has been no public announcement for a nationwide recall of the tainted candies, which continue to be sold in Beijing.  All EU imports of products containing over 15 percent milk powder will have to be tested under the new rules scheduled for implementation today.  The EU imports approximately
21,500 tones of Chinese confectionary products.

The World Health Organization and UNICEF, the U.N. Children’s Fund, issued a joint statement Thursday expressing concern over the crisis.  “Whilst any attempt to deceive the public in the area of food production and marketing is unacceptable, deliberate contamination of foods intended for consumption by vulnerable infants and young children is particularly deplorable….  We also expect that following the investigation and in the context of the Chinese government’s increasing attention to food safety, better regulation of foods for infants and young children will be enforced.”  The statement urged increase awareness of the benefits of breast-feeding, which has become less common there in recent years as working mothers moved to powdered baby formulas.

The nation’s food safety watchdog issued a recall list on September 16 for 69 batches of milk powder made by 22 companies. The only other recall list was issued on September 19 for liquid milk.  Meanwhile, melamine continues to show up in a wide variety of other products.


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