Debate delayed on China's revised food safety law

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BEIJING (AP) China's legislature has postponed debate on a revised food safety law, which is being revamped in the wake of a major scandal over tainted milk, state media reported Monday.

A draft of the law was taken off the agenda of a bimonthly session of the National People's Congress that started this week, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Lawmakers are expected to take up debate in February.

The latest revisions to the food safety law were prompted by a scandal earlier this year in which at least six babies were killed and nearly 300,000 others sickened after consuming milk products tainted by melamine, an industrial chemical added to watered-down milk.

The scandal highlighted the widespread practice of adding melamine often used in manufacturing plastics to fool protein tests. Melamine is rich in nitrogen, which registers as protein on many routine tests.

Xinhua cited sources from the NPC's Standing Committee as saying China's Cabinet, the State Council, suggested the postponement because the country's monitoring system and industry practices were still being evaluated.

A staffer from the office of the NPC Standing Committee, who declined to give his name, confirmed the delay.

Though melamine is not believed to be harmful in tiny amounts, higher concentrations produce kidney stones, which can block the ducts that carry urine from the body, and in serious cases can cause kidney failure.

The crisis prompted authorities to announce a complete overhaul of the country's dairy industry. The scare badly hit dairy exports, which fell 92 percent in October from the previous year, the official China Daily newspaper reported.




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