China's tainted milk scare spreads to Europe
From the shelves of Tesco in Britain to stores in Shanghai and France, China’s most popular sweet is being withdrawn amid fears it is contaminated with the industrial chemical in
some milk powder that has left four babies dead and more than 50,000 in hospital.
The famed White Rabbit Creamy Candy, invented in 1943 by a Chinese businessmen impressed by a similar English milk candy, is being pulled because it is thought to contain contaminated
milk. The recall in Shanghai and the southern island province of Hainan is the first widely known recall on the Chinese mainland of goods other than milk products and milk.
The candy was once marketed under the slogan “Seven White Rabbit candies is equivalent to one cup of milk” and has for five decades been a staple treat for every Chinese
China’s worst food safety scandal in decades has spread from formula produced by the country’s premier milk powder producer near Beijing to countries across Africa and Asia,
an investor in New Zealand and supermarkets in Europe.
France said its ban on all food items containing Chinese milk products was precautionary after the discovery that the industrial chemical melamine – used to make plastics and glue
– had been added to milk by collecting centers. Workers added the chemical, which is rich in nitrogen, to diluted milk or milk that failed to meet standards to bamboozle tests for
Melamine is not necessarily dangerous in small quantities, but the chemical had been added in such huge amounts to baby formula that at least four infants have died of acute kidney
problems and thousands more are sick with kidney and other organ failure after being fed on a diet of milk powder from the Sanlu Group.
But an investigation has revealed the contamination extends far beyond Sanlu’s baby formula. China’s top quality regulator has been fired, the head of Sanlu has been
arrested along with some 18 other people involved with selling melamine or tampering with milk.
The European Union does not import milk or milk products from China and France’s measure targets foodstuffs that contain Chinese dairy products as an ingredient. The French agriculture
and economic ministries said: “The public authorities have decided … to adopt further precautionary measures for all products incorporating milk derivatives of Chinese origin.
These products will have to be withdrawn from the market and will not be able to be put on sale.”
Italy has announced similar measures. The European Commission has asked the European Food Safety Authority to issue a scientific opinion on whether processed items containing milk
products from China pose a risk to human health, and the announcement is expected this week.
South Korea said it had banned imports of Chinese-made food products containing powdered milk following the discovery of biscuits tainted with melamine. Australia and New Zealand also
issued recalls Thursday for imported White Rabbit candy.
New Zealand Food Safety Authority spokesman Geoff Allen said he expected the White Rabbit Creamy Candies to be off shelves within 24 hours. A statement posted on the agency website
said: ”This product contains sufficiently high levels of melamine which may, in some individuals, cause health problems such as kidney stones. The levels we have found in these
products are unacceptable.”