New China Food Scandal Involves Milk, Cooking Oil

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SHANGHAI—Another food safety scandal has rocked China this week after high doses of a carcinogenic mildew were found in dairy products from the popular Mengniu Dairy Group. An initial investigation revealed the contamination was caused by mildewed feed given to cows in the dairy's plant in southwest Sichuan province, reported the state-run Xinhua news agency.

On Dec. 24 the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine (AQSIQ) discovered high levels of aflatoxin in milk products from a Mengniu factory in Sichuan Province. The toxin also was found in milk from a smaller company—the Changfu Dairy Industry Group—in Fujian Province. Aflatoxin is produced by a fungus that commonly grows on crops such as grains and peanuts. High levels of the toxin may lead to cancer in some animals.

According to a company statement, the relevant batch of products had not been released to the market at the time of the inspection, and the company immediately sealed and destroyed all such products without delay. None of such contaminated products were released to the market. At present, all products on shelf in the markets within and outside the PRC, including the Hong Kong market, have passed the relevant standards. The company said it will reinforce its quality control procedures by closely monitoring products quality over each production process from raw milk collection to final products delivery to ensure product quality and food safety.

The dairy incident caused a ripple effect as Chinese authorities issued a recall of cooking oil products made by three companies in Guangdong province—Fusheng Oil, Manyi Peanut Oil, Mabao Oil—that contain excessive levels of aflatoxin.

In November, China penalized 113 people, including 17 government employees, over a March 2011 chemical-tainted pork scandal that once again brought to light the country’s struggle with food safety issues. The scandal came just a few years after the 2008 melamine scandal that sickened thousands, killed at least six children and nearly destroyed China’s dairy industry.

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