Chinese Regulators Destroy Tons of Tainted Animal Feed

(New York Times – China)



Chinese regulators said over the weekend that they had confiscated and destroyed more than 3,600 tons of animal feed tainted with melamine, an industrial chemical that has contaminated food supplies in China and led to global recalls of Chinese dairy products.


In what appeared to be China’s biggest food safety crackdown in years, the government also said Saturday that it had closed 238 feed makers in a series of nationwide sweeps that involved more than 369,000 government inspectors.


The aggressive moves come amid growing worries that the animal feed industry could be contaminated by melamine, endangering the national food supply and posing a health threat to consumers.


In the past week and a half, eggs produced in three provinces were found to be tainted with high levels of melamine. And in September, melamine-tainted infant formula was blamed for sickening more than 50,000 children and causing at least four deaths.


Regulators in the southern province of Guangdong, which has about 80 million people and is a major manufacturing center near Hong Kong, said they had discovered six tons of melamine-tainted animal feed.


An official at the Agriculture Ministry said that the government would mete out harsh punishment to those who were deliberately adding melamine to animal feed.


“It is illegal for any individual or any enterprise to add melamine into feed, and we will crack down uncompromisingly on melamine,” Wang Zhicai, director of the animal husbandry and livestock bureau at the Agriculture Ministry, said Saturday, according to a transcript of his news conference.


But government officials also said that China’s animal feed supply was largely safe and that the quality of feed had improved in recent years. They insisted that only a small number of rogue operators had deliberately added melamine to feed, often using it as cheap filler to save money.


The government response was similarly reassuring early last year when several animal feed makers were caught exporting melamine-tainted feed ingredients to the United States and other countries, resulting in contaminated pet food supplies that sickened and killed cats and dogs.


That case led to the largest pet food recall in American history. Melamine dealers in China said in interviews last year and as recently as Friday that it was not uncommon for animal feed producers to buy melamine scrap, the cheaper waste left over after producing melamine products, and use it as filler.


Still, some food safety officials are asking consumers not to be too alarmed. Although contaminated eggs found in Hong Kong exceeded the government limit for melamine, a young child would have to consume about two dozen of the eggs in a single day to become sick, they said. 11-03-08





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