More nations pull products as China milk scandal spreads


SEOUL — South Korea, Australia and Japan Saturday pulled melamine-contaminated sweets and drinks from supermarket shelves amid a widening scandal over Chinese milk products tainted with the toxic chemical. Authorities in Seoul ordered Mars and Nestle to pull three products after melamine, which is usually used for making plastics, was detected in snacks made in China by the multinationals. The industrial chemical had been found in M&M’s milk chocolate snack and Snickers peanut Fun Size, both produced by Mars, and Kit Kat chocolate bars imported from Nestle Tianjin in China, Korea Food and Drug Administration said. “Mars is recalling these products because it is legally obligated to do so following the announcement by the Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA),” Mars said in a statement. Melamine has been blamed for making thousands of infants ill and killing four in mainland China after it tainted baby milk powder in arguably the worst in a litany of product safety scandals involving Chinese-made goods in recent years. Since first appearing in baby milk formula, melamine has been found in a range of products containing Chinese milk. Mars said while it was complying with the South Korean request, the melamine levels detected were too small to pose a health risk, and called for a standard reporting limit of the industrial chemical across Asia. “Minute traces of melamine are commonly found throughout the global food chain and melamine levels below 2.5 ppm are not deemed to indicate adulteration with melamine,” it said. There was no immediate comment from Nestle Korea. A KFDA official told AFP South Korea did not allow any level of melamine in food.

World Health Organization food safety expert Peter Ben Embarek said earlier this week many countries had only recently fixed limits for melamine in food as “melamine has nothing to do with the food chain”. The chemical was added to milk before being sold to dairy manufacturers in a bid to falsely boost protein readings, Chinese authorities have said. A fourth Chinese milk product has been withdrawn from sale in Australia after tests revealed it was tainted with melamine, Food Standards Australia New Zealand said in a statement. “Consumers are advised not to consume Kirin milk tea made in China,” the organization said.

The Australian food watchdog has already recalled White Rabbit sweets and Chinese-made Cadbury chocolate eclairs, while importers of Lotte Koala Biscuits have undertaken a precautionary withdrawal of the product. A Japanese importer, meanwhile, began recalling Chinese chocolates suspected of being contaminated with melamine. The western Japanese city of Osaka said a test showed the chemical had been detected in “Chocolate Pillows” imported from China by Osaka-based NS International. While there had been no reports of health problems, the city ordered the importer to recall some 86,000 packages of the chocolates on the grounds that the company may have violated the food sanitation law.