China’s chief quality supervisor was replaced today as the total number of children sickened from dairy products tainted with melamine (the same substance that was found in contaminated pet food last year) grew to 53,000. Nearly 13,000 children have been hospitalized and 4 have died. Products manufactured by 22 companies were found to contain melamine, says Bloomberg.
Taiwan banned all dairy products from mainland China today, while Marudai Food Co. in Japan and Nestle SA in Hong Kong announced product recalls. The scandal has claimed the lives of four infants and revived concerns about the effectiveness of China’s food safety controls after scares last year over contaminated seafood, toothpaste and pet food.
“That shows that they’re serious,” said Jim Rice, greater China country manager for Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods Inc., who has worked with China’s food regulator. “Now this means a new guy with new ideas and maybe a new quality assurance system. It could be a healthy shakeup.”
Melamine, used in making plastics, has also been found in cartons of milk and some dairy exports, but no illnesses from those sources have been reported.
Medical experts said on Monday that, as well as causing kidney stones, melamine could potentially cause far more serious complications by crystallizing and then blocking tiny tubes in the kidneys.
Japan, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan have all banned Chinese dairy products.