China Detains Factory Owner in Melamine Scandal

The Associated Press (AP) is now reporting that “authorities in a Chinese city have detained the owner of a feed processing factory” who is suspected of selling chicken feed tainted w<"">ith melamine.  Melamine was later found in eggs according to state media reports.  That discovery led to deeper investigations.

The AP report states that according to the Xinhua News Agency, authorities in Shenyang discovered that the factory mixed an ingredient tainted with melamine into feed sold to Dalian Hanwei Enterprise Group, China’s leading egg producer.  A brand of that firm’s eggs were later found to contain excessive melamine levels.  According to the AP report, Xinhua said that Mingxing Feed Processing Factory’s owner, Gao Xingtao, was detained and the remaining tainted animal feed made by his factory was destroyed.  It remains unclear if the company ships its feed to other countries; however, Chinese media reports said police closed the factory.  Three other egg brands were also found to be contaminated with melamine.  Agriculture officials believe the eggs were tainted because hens were fed contaminated feed.

Because ministry officials confirmed that “the practice of deliberately adding melamine to animal feed was widely practiced,” said the AP, it is likely that melamine contamination may not be isolated to baby formula and dairy products.  Yesterday, we reported that farmers in China confirmed that milk spiking was an open secret in the Chinese dairy industry well before the ongoing melamine scandal.  Now, dairy products and products made with dairy products from China are turning up with melamine contamination internationally, causing global health scares.

The scandal originally broke when tainted infant formula caused the death of four infants and sickened tens of thousands of children.  And, now, the AP reports that a ninth child—a five-year-old girl—is suffering from a kidney stone after drinking milk possibly tainted with melamine.  The girl fell ill after participating in a school milk program with milk supplied by Chinese dairy Yili Industrial Group Company.  Yili’s products were earlier confirmed to contain melamine.

Melamine is an industrial chemical originally designed to make plastics, fertilizer, and fire retardants and is also used to cheat nutrition tests with its high nitrogen contents.  Because of this, melamine can create the appearance in food of being high in protein and has been used in recent years to falsify protein levels in foods.  In the recent milk scandal, melamine was added to watered-down baby formula to create the impression of high protein levels in diluted milk products.

Meanwhile, the AP reports states that Beijing had promised overhaul the dairy industry “by monitoring every link in the supply chain that brings milk from farms to family kitchens.”  The government, according to the AP, claims that such monitoring and improvements remain a “challenge.”  Also in the AP report, Zhang Li, head of consumer goods in the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, “said in a notice on the ministry’s Website that some dairy manufacturers lacked equipment to detect the presence of melamine, partly because of cost.”

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