China orders toxic milk recall; EU wants answers

Chinese supermarkets have finally taken dairy products off their shelves after melamine - a toxic chemical - was found in major dairy brands. Four babies have already died. Steven Jiang reports.


BEIJING - Europe expects that China will provide a full accounting of a tainted milk powder scandal and punish any cover-ups, a senior EU official said on Friday.

China has faced panicked parents and public dismay since officials and the Sanlu Group, the nation's biggest maker of infant milk powder, last week revealed babies were sick with kidney stones and complications from drinking toxic powder.

Thousands of babies are affected, four have died and 22 companies have since been implicated in the scandal.

Robert Madelin, director-general for health and consumer protection at the European Commission, said the bloc had been in touch with China on the case, though no problem milk products had been reported in Europe.

"We are trying to establish the facts. We are discussing all aspects of this crisis bilaterally with our colleagues in China. Our priority is to ensure the integrity of the European supply chain," he told reporters in Beijing.

"On the governance aspect, we are also asking questions, and we will learn the truth probably about the same time you do," Madelin added, speaking at a news conference on product safety cooperation between the EU, United States and China.

"We expect to hear that narrative," he said, referring to a full accounting of the scandal from the Chinese, including addressing concerns it may have been covered up.

The European Union is China's largest trading partner and has in the past expressed concern Beijing does not do enough to tackle product and consumer safety woes, especially in the light of a series of scandals involving toys and food last year.

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese supermarkets and shops pulled milk and a wide range of other dairy products off their shelves Friday as a sweeping recall of goods tainted with a dangerous chemical hit full gear.

Yili, Mengniu and Guangming -- big brands consumed and trusted by hundreds of millions of Chinese -- were affected by the recall after authorities checked their products and found traces of melamine, a chemical used in plastics.

"All problem products have been banned from our stores," an executive at Jian-Mart, a popular supermarket chain, told AFP.

"Products from Yilin, Mengniu and Guangming have been pulled off the shelves, including milk, milk powder and yoghurt," she said, giving only her surname, Zhao.

The government agency in charge of product quality supervision on Friday issued detailed findings from a comprehensive national check, showing 24 the 295 batches it tested from the three dairy companies were contaminated.

"The manufacturers should of their own accord recall all products where melamine has been detected," the agency said on its website.

Melamine can make products look like they are bursting with protein, but consumed in large amounts it can be lethal.

Four babies have died so far from kidney failure in China's most recent product safety scandal, and more than 6,000 have fallen ill.

The scare escalated Thursday when the government announced that a number of milk products, and not only baby formula, are tainted with the chemical.

The three companies hit by the latest recall could not be reached for comment Friday.

But retailers complained that the scandal was costing them dearly.

"Normally we can sell 53,000 yuan (7,700 dollars) of dairy products per day, but at present we sell less than 10,000 yuan," said Wang Feiqi, a manager at a branch of supermarket chain Wu-Mart.

"I think this will last at least one or two months. Customers won't come to buy these products unless they reach the national standard."

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