BEIJING - The discovery has punched a 170-ton hole in China's promises to overhaul its food safety system. Yet another case has been found of large amounts of tainted milk powder from the country's 2008 scandal that should have been destroyed instead being repackaged.
China ordered tens of thousands of milk products laced with the industrial chemical melamine burned or buried after more than 300,000 children were sickened and at least six died. But the government did not carry out the eradication itself. An emergency crackdown this month has made it clear that tons of compromised products are still on the market.
Tainted dairy has recently been found in China's largest city, Shanghai, and in the provinces of Shaanxi, Shandong, Liaoning, Guizhou, Jilin and Hebei. Five companies are suspected of reselling tainted products that should have been destroyed, the Health Ministry said last week. The problem products uncovered in the 10-day emergency crackdown have so far been limited to the domestic market.
The campaign is to end Wednesday, and it's not clear whether it will be extended.
The Health Ministry has not commented since the crackdown began. The China Dairy Association has remained quiet as well.
"The problem is, this is a product with a shelf life of several years. It's very important that the product is not left unattended," said Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, a WHO senior scientist on food safety based in Beijing.
In the 2008 scandal, China punished dozens of officials, dairy executives and farmers, even executing a dairy farmer and a milk salesman.
Yesterday, with the announcement that more contaminated products had been found, it appeared new regulations had failed. More than 170 tons of tainted milk powder were recalled, the China Daily reported.