Monday, October 6, 2008

China strengthens supervision during holidays to curb tainted milk scandal

China continued to strengthen dairy product supervision during the week-long National Day holiday amid efforts to ensure food safety and restore public trust in milk supplies.

All the milk containing melamine had been withdrawn from sale in northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and consumers should be confident, according to the regional administration for industry and commerce.

More than 110,000 people were dispatched to examine milk products across the region. A total of 23,000 kilograms of milk powder and 30,000 kilograms of liquid milk were isolated, said Li Yan, the administration deputy director.

The regional product quality watchdog has sent officials to supervise production and tested more than 1,500 batches of milk products in more than 160 milk factories.

Yili and Mengniu, China's two leading brands based in Inner Mongolia, have made promises to ensure milk safety and are promoting their products to renew confidence among the public.

Melamine is a chemical used to make plastics. Experts say it was added illegally to watered-down raw milk to make it appear as if it had a high protein content. The tainted milk is known to have killed four babies and left 13,000 others hospitalized with kidney problems in China.

A total of 206 officials in Shaanxi Province were sent to monitor the production processes of 95 milk factories, said Zhang Fuhai, director of the provincial product safety watchdog.

"The products shall be put on sale only after they passed the strict sampling tests," said Qu Rui'e who was in charge of supervising the Oriental Dairy Co. Ltd. based in Xi'an, the provincial capital.

Statistics showed that the daily sales of milk products in the province increased by about 10 percent during the National Day holiday from late September.

North China's Hebei Province has started to destroy more than 400 tons of milk found to be contaminated with melamine. All the tainted milk had been sealed off before Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Hebei government had earmarked 316 million yuan in subsidies, paying dairy farmers 200 yuan per cow.

"We must crack down on illegal behavior, and we must protect the interests of the dairy sector. With the support of the government, enterprises are purchasing more milk and farmers are building up confidence," said Liu Daqun, head of the provincial agriculture department.

A nationwide inspection of baby milk powder was ordered on Sept. 11 after media reports that products from Sanlu and other Chinese brands contained melamine. Testing has been broadened from baby formula to other types of milk products.

The latest sample tests on 609 batches of liquid milk from 27 cities across China detected no melamine in newly supplied liquid milk on the market, said the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine on Saturday.

In the previous inspection, on Sept. 30, officials tested 265 batches of adult milk powder produced before Sept. 14 by 154 companies, and the tests found 31 batches from 20 companies were tainted with melamine.

Source: Xinhua

Township officials killed in NE China traffic collision

Three township officials died and another two were injured on Sunday in an expressway crash in northeast China.

A car carrying the officials from a township of Shuangcheng City, Heilongjiang Province, and a truck hit each other at about 10 a.m. at a toll gate on the Beijing-Harbin Express way.

Two other people in the car were injured and taken to hospital,said Tong Yibin, a traffic officer in charge of the section from the provincial capital, Harbin, to Shuangcheng.

Both vehicles were heading for Harbin, police said, without giving more details.

Police are investigating the cause of the accident.

Source: Xinhua

Inspectors posted to dairy factories for 24-hour supervision

China's quality supervision authority has dispatched more than 5,000 inspectors to carry out round-the-clock scrutiny at dairy factories in an effort to restore consumer confidence in the wake of the scandal over the melamine contamination of milk.

Wang Yong, director of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine , told Xinhua that the government would strive to ensure all dairy products manufactured after Sept. 14 were melamine-free and safe.

"Food safety concerns not only the health of the public, but also the life of business, " Wang said.

Wang, who took up the post last month after predecessor Li Changjiang was sacked, vowed to "make a substantial change in the production and distribution of dairy products".

Calling the site inspections an "unusual measure", he said 1,644 teams had covered all dairy producers across the country and would be present through the whole production process.

Inspectors would ensure all raw materials were stored properly, with the producers clearly marked and quality certified.

Chemicals including melamine and cyanuric acid, non-food raw materials, recycled foodstuffs and deteriorated raw materials would be weeded out, while food addictives must be registered with local quality supervision departments.

In-house quality control personnel must sample test every batch of goods under scrutiny by GAQSIQ inspectors, who could advise management to transfer or sack incapable quality control personnel, he said.

Inspectors would also see that factory laboratories and equipment met standards. Products for shipping or delivery must have complete production records and the endorsement of GAQSIQ inspectors.

Dairy producers unable to carry out laboratory tests in their factories were required to go to public inspection and quarantine institutions.

Only 12 food quality inspection institutions, all in Beijing, had been verified as qualified to test for melamine, the chemical used to cheat on protein tests of diluted raw milk.

Wang said the verification of other institutions was continuing and a longer list was expected to be released by the Certification and Accreditation Administration.

Enterprises producing or using melamine would be purged while inspection of exports would be tightened in line with the quality standards of import nations, he said.

Wang also planned to put in place a set of systems securing scientific analysis, encouraging both public and private investigation and rewarding whistle-blowers.

He said fundamental work, such as establishing measurements and standards, accreditation and certification, quality inspection and quarantine as well as the utilization of data would be taken as priorities.

"Without the concerted efforts of local governments and enterprises, the safety of the general public could not be guaranteed," Wang said.

Under State Council regulations, food safety has been listed in the management targets of local government leaders above county level, which means incompetent officials face dismissal or disciplinary penalties.

A GAQSIQ statement released on Sunday said the latest sample tests, the seventh since mid-September, showed all of the 128 batches of baby formula under 38 brands in 10 provinces were found free of melamine.

Another 212 batches of milk powder under 84 brands in 21 provinces tested were also melamine free. Previously failed brands such as Yili, Yashili, Guangming Songhe, ChenGuan and Mengniu all passed the latest tests.

Department stores and supermarkets have been required to post the lists of qualified enterprises and their products, set up safe dairy counters and secure sufficient supply of quality milk products.

A nationwide inspection of baby milk powder was ordered on Sept. 11 after media reports that products from Sanlu and other Chinese brands contained melamine. Testing has been broadened from baby formula to other types of milk products.

Source: Xinhua

Six more detained amid tainted milk scandal

Chinese police have detained six more suspects involved in the contaminated milk scandal that had caused deaths and kidney stones of babies.

The six, suspected of producing and selling the chemical melamine, were detained in Hohhot, capital of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in north China, the country's key milk production base, the municipal government said on Sunday in a notice.

It said the arrests were made during a thorough investigation in Yili and Mengniu, China's two major milk producers based in Inner Mongolia.

Tian Min, vice secretary general of the municipal government, said no more information was available so far and the police were interrogating the suspects.

He told Xinhua that investigation results are expected to be released in four to five days.

The dairy giant Sanlu based in the Hebei provincial capital Shijiazhuang in north China was the first company exposed in the tainted milk powder scandal. Many other milk products of various companies including Yili and Mengniu were later found being tainted by melamine, an industrial chemical that could make milk appear richer in protein than it actually is.

The tainted milk is known to have killed four babies and left 13,000 others hospitalized with kidney problems in China.

Source: Xinhua

August figure of Taiwan's jobless highest in three years

Taiwan reported the most number of unemployed people in August compared with the same month in the previous two years, according to a local media report.

The number of "long-term" unemployed, referring to those out of work for at least one year, hit 63,000 in August, the report said, citing the latest figures from the Taiwan authorities.

Of these, 56 percent were aged under 30 and almost 30 percent were educated to college level or above.

Taiwan registered fewer than 40,000 long-term unemployed before2001. However, as the economy slides and more companies close, the problem has worsened.

In 2002, up to 100,000 people were jobless, and the figure dropped to 53,000 in August 2006.

The statistics of September was still being processed, the report said, warning that if it was to continue rising, the situation would be even more serious than expected.

Source: Xinhua

M6.8 earthquake hits Xinjiang

A strong earthquake measuring 6.8 degrees on the Richter scale hit Wuqia County, or Ulugqia County, in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northwest China, on Sunday, at 23:52 pm, according to the National Seismological Network.

The epicenter was located in Wuqia, Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture, with its epicenter 110 kilometers away from the county town of Wuqia , 180 kilometers from Kashi City,10 kilometers from the Chinese border. The source of the earthquake was 33 kilometers underground.

Residents in Kashi also felt the strong earthquake, Xinhua reporter in Xinjiang said. There have been no reports of casualties so far.

Wuqia is located in the Pamirs, in the southwestern part of Xinjiang, and at the conjunction of the southern side of the Tianshan Mountains and the Kunlun Mountains.

Wuqia, 1,500 kilometers away from Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang, was hit by a 3.8 magnitude earthquake on Sept. 22 this year and a 5.8 magnitude quake on Dec. 25, 2002.

Source: Xinhua

Aso visit to boost China-Japan ties

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso is scheduled to visit China later this month, holding his first talks with Chinese leaders since taking office last month, the Japanese government announced yesterday.

Aso will meet with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao when he attends the Asia-Europe Meeting in Beijing on October 24 and 25, the Kyodo News reported.

During his visit, Aso is expected to affirm former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's goal of improving relations with China and stress the need to cooperate on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The two sides may also discuss cooperation on food safety and greenhouse gas emission reduction, the report said.

Aso's decision to visit China soon after taking office is a reflection of his willingness to continue on the track of improving relations with Beijing, analysts said.

"His upcoming trip to Beijing shows that he values Sino-Japanese ties just as much as his predecessors Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda did," said Wang Taiping, China's former consul general in Osaka.

"One message he will likely bring is his willingness to further deepen the mutually beneficial China-Japan strategic relationship," he said.

Aso, a former foreign minister, is very likely to reaffirm his predecessors' objective of further developing ties with the rest of Asia, especially China, he added.

Feng Zhaokui, a senior advisor to the National Society of Japanese Economic Studies, said Aso's visit to China once again showed Sino-Japanese ties are unlikely to be affected by the change of the Japanese premiership.

"Aso, once elected as the prime minister, is fully aware that he has to be pragmatic on foreign policy issues and put national interests first," Feng said.

"A stable and healthy relationship with China is clearly in Japan's interests."

Source: China Daily