(Associated Press –
Chinese police have arrested two brothers suspected of adding an industrial chemical to milk they sold to a company that produced infant formula that killed two babies and sickened more than 1,200 others, officials and state media reported Monday.
The two brothers, surnamed Geng,
run a milk collection center in
Chinese investigators say melamine may have been added to the milk to fool quality tests after water was added to fraudulently increase the milk's volume. Melamine is rich in nitrogen, and standard tests for protein in food ingredients measure nitrogen levels.
No information was given about the fatalities, although authorities had earlier announced one death.
The company that produced the infant formula, Sanlu Group Co., is
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said Monday that she had learned of the problem on Sept. 5 and convened a meeting of senior ministers three days later at which she ordered officials to directly inform senior authorities in Beijing, at a time when provincial Chinese officials appeared to be dragging their feet in ordering a recall. "We were the whistleblowers and they leapt in and ensured there was action on the ground," Ms. Clark told reporters. "At a local level ... I think the first inclination was to try and put a towel over it and deal with it without an official recall," she said.
Fonterra, the world's biggest milk trader, said Sunday it had urged Sanlu to recall the product as early as six weeks ago. Sanlu didn't order a recall until last Thursday.
Chinese officials have defended their response to the country's latest product-safety disaster but blamed Sanlu Group for delays in warning the public. Officials say they weren't alerted until last Monday, even though Sanlu received complaints as early as March and company tests in August found the milk powder contained melamine, which is banned in food products.
Authorities have seized 2,176 tons of milk powder from a Sanlu warehouse and recalled 8,218 tons already sent to market, Xinhua said. It said all would be destroyed.
On Sunday, the General Administration for Quality
Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine sent groups of officials to
The incident is a setback for
The milk scandal is especially damaging because it involves a major Chinese food company and the government expects such companies to act as industry role models for safety and quality.
Shoddy and fake goods are common in
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