Archive for the ‘food safety’ Category

Peanut Scandal: Food Factories Know If They Are Clean

February 6, 2009

Let’s not sugar coat this: food factories know if they are clean or not.

Rats, cockroaches and other bad things get seen and detected: they leave calling cards.

The owners and operators of the the Peanut Corp. of America, which are suspected of shipping salmonella laced peanut products, shoul be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

We also have zero sympathy for federal and state food safety agencies responsible for public health safguards. They have clearly violated the public trust.


The Agriculture Department shipped possibly contaminated peanut butter and other foods to schools in at least three states under a contract with the Georgia company blamed for a nationwide salmonella outbreak.

The government abruptly suspended all business with the company Thursday, as officials defended their efforts to halt the outbreak that has sickened at least 575 people in 43 states. At least eight have died. It’s become one of the largest food recalls ever, including more than 1,300 products.

The potentially contaminated products went to school free lunch programs in California, Minnesota and Idaho in 2007, the Department of Agriculture said Friday. Peanut butter and roasted peanuts processed by the Peanut Corp. of America were sent to the schools.

None of the states reported illnesses as a result of students eating the recalled peanut products.

Jim Brownlee, a spokesman for the Agriculture Department, said there have been no potentially contaminated shipments from the company in the last year. It was unclear how much of the suspect food might still remain uneaten at the schools.

Despite ongoing reports of illnesses linked to the company, the Agriculture department only Thursday suspended Peanut Corp. from participating in government contract programs, for at least a year. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also removed Stewart Parnell, president of the company, from USDA’s Peanut Standards Board.

The company’s actions indicate that it “lacks business integrity and business honesty, which seriously and directly hinders its ability to do business with the federal government,” said David Shipman, acting administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, said in a statement.

The recalled foods used ingredients from the Peanut Corp. processing plant in Blakely, Ga. While the outbreak appears to be slowing down, new illnesses are still being reported.

School officials across the country have been checking cafeterias and vending machines for the recalled products, and some have stopped serving any peanut-related products at all, out of an abundance of caution.

The Food and Drug Administration learned only weeks ago that the Peanut Corp. of America had received a series of private tests dating back to 2007 showing salmonella in their products from the Georgia plant, but later shipped the items after obtaining negative test results.

The Agriculture Department initially said that school meal programs were not affected by the large-scale recall. But that changed when Peanut Corp. expanded its recall to all peanut products made at the plant since Jan. 1, 2007.

At a Senate hearing Thursday on the salmonella outbreak, lawmakers reacted angrily when told that food companies and state safety inspectors don’t have to report to the FDA when test results find pathogens in a processing plant, leaving the federal government in the dark.


Jailed China milk-scandal chief appeals sentence

February 1, 2009

The former chairwoman of the Sanlu Group, jailed for life over China‘s melamine-tainted milk scandal in which at least six children died, has appealed against her sentence, state media said on Sunday.

Tian Wenhua says her trial lacked evidence, Xinhua news agency quoted her lawyer as saying.

Tian was convicted last year at Shijiazhuang Intermediate People’s Court of manufacturing and selling fake or substandard products. She was sentenced to life last month and fined 24.7 million yuan ($3.6 million).

Two men were sentenced to death and three former Sanlu executives received jail terms of five to 15 years.

The court ruled Tian authorized the sale of products that contained 10 mg of melamine in every 1 kg of milk, Xinhua said.

Nearly 300,000 children fell ill last year after drinking milk laced with melamine, a toxic industrial compound that can give a fake positive on protein tests.

The latest in a string of food safety failures that have blighted the “made in China” brand, the Sanlu milk scandal prompted an outpouring of public anger.

(Reporting by Nick Macfie; Editing by Janet Lawrence of Reuters)


From Xinhua

Tian and her lawyers also argued the court lacked evidence to say that Tian agreed to receive the problematic crude milk.

Tian said the management of Sanlu Group decided to recall and cease selling the baby milk powder containing melamine on Aug. 1 when the Hebei Provincial Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau confirmed that samples sent by the company were contaminated.

Even if the milk powder department under the group failed to inform the downstream dealers, Tian should not bear the responsibility, Liang said.

Three other former Sanlu executives received jail terms of 5 to 15 years for their roles in the scandal.

The Sanlu Group, whose bankruptcy petition was accepted by the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People’s Court last month, was fined 49.37 million yuan by the Shijiazhuang court.

Read the entire article:

 China Killed Children With Poisoned Milk, Held “Show Trial,” Absolved Government Regulators

China Discovers Compensation for Pain, Agony; But Don’t Expect Much

January 26, 2009

Unemployed: China will help out.  Loved ones lost in the earthquake?  China will pay.  Kids killed by poisoned milk: not to worry.

China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao just visited survivors of last May’s earthquake which devastated large parts of Sichuan province last year to help them celebrate the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival.

Many Chinese lost family members, children and friends in the earthquake, along with their homes, jobs and towns.

China Premier’s gifts to Europe come with price-tags

Wen cooked spicey Chinese stew and handed out money to some earthquake victims.  The cooking was done in a government tent shelter.

Above: Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in Sichuan Province, in a photo distributed by the official Chinese news agency. Yao Dawei/Xinhua, via Reuters

China’s state run media said about 75 million earthquake victims got the equivalent of $15.00 to help them celebrate the New Year.  Per family.

Isn’t this called “papering over” trouble?
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency also announced on Monday that the government is to help train as many as one million jobless college graduates over the next three years.

Graduates will also be offered small loans to help them start their own businesses.

Let’s hope it’s more than fifteen bucks.

Experts say there are more than 20 million newly unemployed people in China, many of them migrants.  China is worried that unemployment will cause social unrest.

But analysts say the education and job-start programs show the government’s increasing concern with rising unemployment.

Tomorrow Mr. Wen travels to Europe to pass out goodies.

There hasn’t been an earthquake in Europe unless you count the global economic melt-down.

Lets hope fifteen U.S. dollars doesn’t buy China any loyalty in Paris, London and elsewhere.  Oh, excuse us, Paris is not on Mr. Wen’s itinerary….

President Sarkozy’s love of the Dalai Lama cost him at least $15.00….and China’s love….

Related from the BBC:

China celebrates New Year:


The China Dairy Industry Association has claimed that 90 percent families of the victims in the country’s tainted milk scandal have been compensated.

Without disclosing the compensation amount, the association said that families of 262,662 children who were sickened after drinking the melamine-contaminated milk products had signed compensation agreements and accepted compensation, the reports.

Out of the families of six dead children and 891 other infants, all except two had accepted compensation, the association said. However, families of 23,651 sickened children have yet to be reached mainly because of wrong or untrue registration of names, it added.

There are only a handful of families of sickened children who want to realize their rights and interests by filing lawsuits and did not accept compensation, it said.

The Chinese Health Ministry has confirmed deaths of six infants who died after consuming contaminated milk products, whereas 296,000 infants suffered kidney stones and other urinary problems.

In a letter sent to victims last month, Sanlu Group which was at the center of the scandal along with 21 other dairy companies, offered 200,000 yuan for families whose children died and 30,000 yuan for serious cases such as kidney stones and acute kidney failure. The less severe case victims got 2,000 yuan as damage.

The dairy companies have also set up a fund to pay the medical liabilities of the sickened children until they reach the age of 18.Read the rest from ANI and New Karala:


China Poisoned Food Problem Step Ahead: Restrict Melamine

January 22, 2009

China plans to impose production controls on melamine, the cheap industrial ingredient at the center of a milk-contamination scandal that shocked China and the rest of the world last year, a newspaper said on Friday.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has circulated for comment draft production permit rules aiming to stem a melamine production glut and stop it from tainting food, the China Chemical Industry News reported.

Melamine is used to maker fertilizers, plastics and other industrial goods but gained notoriety as a cheap additive for milk and other foods. Rich in nitrogen, melamine can be used to fool tests for protein.

At least six young Chinese children died from kidney stones and more than 290,000 were made ill from melamine-contaminated milk formula, battering already dented faith in China-made goods and prompting massive recalls of dairy and other food products around the world.

Tian Wenhua, the former general manager of the now bankrupt Sanlu Group, the company at the heart of the poisoning scandal, has pleaded guilty to charges of “producing and selling fake or substandard products”. She is expected to be sentenced to life imprisonment.

The Industry Ministry hoped the new rules would end such scandals, the newspaper said.

Until recently, melamine has been widely sold, including over the Internet, for around 10,000 yuan ($1,500) a metric ton. It has also been detected in eggs, chocolates and other foods.

The ministry also aims to shrink the number of melamine producers by setting minimum production levels and strengthening controls on ingredients and waste.

A two-month-old boy died on Sunday after being fed with milk formula made by a Guangdong milk company in eastern Zhejiang province, the Oriental Morning Post reported on Friday.

The report made no mention of melamine, but authorities were investigating, it said.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Nick Macfie for Reuters)

China Killed Children With Poisoned Milk, Held “Show Trial,” Absolved Government Regulators

January 22, 2009

China completed a trial of those accused in the milk-poisoned children scandal today, handing down death sentences and sentences to life in prison.

But the government itself took no responsibility for decades of improper food regulations, monitoring and government employees looking the other way when wrongdoing was obvious.

I pesonally saw improper use of chemicals like animal feed, melamine and fertilizer added to food products in China starting in the 1970s — so this issue is not new.  The New York Times investigated this issue in 2007 and found the use of melamine “an open secret” amoung tens of thousands of farmers and vendors.

It is good the world community is now aware of this practice and that China is taking action….But executions of those found guilty now, or even prison, is just wrong, a violation of the most basic human rights, and only used to show action on the part of the Chinese government following tragic infant deaths.

A Chinese nurse attends to a baby who became ill after drinking ... 
A Chinese nurse attends to a baby who became ill after drinking contaminated milk powder in September 2008. At least six infants died. Tian Wenhua and others went to trial trial. But China’s government is the real guilty party….(AFP/File/Str)

Zheng Shuzhen, center, the grandmother of a baby who died after ... 
Zheng Shuzhen, center, the grandmother of a baby who died after drinking tainted milk, cries outside the Intermediate People’s Court in Shijiazhuang, in China’s Hebei province Thursday Jan. 22, 2009. Verdicts and sentencing were expected at the court Thursday for 21 people charged in the tainted milk scandal. AP Photo Greg Baker

“There is no transparency in the process. They are behaving like there is something to hide,” said Teng Biao, a Beijing lawyer who has been trying to bring a lawsuit on behalf of 111 parents. “They are completely excluding the victims.”

That is because China’s government does have much to hide.  This  was a kangaroo court.

The Associated Press reported that a court in China gave a sentence of life in prison to the former boss of the dairy at the center of China’s contaminated milk scandal.

Tian Wenhua, former board chairwoman and general manager of the Chinese dairy company Sanlu Group, will go to life in prison for her role in a tainted milk scandal that killed at least six infants and sickened nearly 300,000 others.

CNN reported that three other people were sentenced to death and two others to life in prison for their roles, while three others received prison terms of five to 15 years each. Many of those sentenced were middlemen who sold melamine to milking stations that added the chemical to the milk.
By John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia

The sentencing:
 Death, Life in Prison Sentences in China Poisoned Milk Trial

China: Another New Melamine Scandal; Poisoned Food Products

From The New York Times:

China: Redefining “Superpower” to Mean Economic and Military Strength Without Human Rights


Reports on the sentences:



Corruption Involving Food Safety Probed in China

January 15, 2009

The country’s disciplinary inspectors were told Wednesday to pay particular attention to corruption involving food and drug safety that had the potential to seriously impact people’s lives.

By Zhu Zhe
China Daily

“We must focus on problems that elicit strong reactions from the people,” stated the communiqu of a three-day plenary session of the Communist Party of China’s top anti-corruption body that ended Wednesday.

Other than food and drug safety, problems included those in environmental protection, land acquisition and work safety, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in the paper.

“Inspectors should seriously deal with collusions between officials and businessmen, and practices that abuse power for monetary gain,” it said.

Late last month, procurators nationwide were also called to keep a close watch on corruption and the dereliction of duty behind major food safety incidents.

“We should actively participate in the ongoing food and drug safety campaign and intervene appropriately in the investigation of incidents,” top procurator Cao Jianming told a national working conference on Dec 19.

Cao’s remarks followed a series of food and drug safety incidents in the country in recent years.

The most deadly one involved tainted baby formula from the Sanlu Group in September last year, in which at least six babies have died and more than 296,000 others have fallen sick. The case has so far brought down eight officials in Hebei province, where Sanlu is based, and caused the resignation of Li Changjiang, the country’s former quality inspection chief.

Zheng Xiaoyu, former head of the State Food and Drug Administration, was even executed in 2007 for taking bribes and dereliction of duty in the wake of a series of drug safety scandals.

Corrupt or irresponsible officials are often behind such major incidents and the latest calls for action reflect how the Party and judicial organs are paying closer attention to the problems, analysts have said.

“The call for closer supervision in this sector reflects the Party’s growing concern over the issues. It also shows how much the Party values the opinion of the people,” said Mao Shoulong, a professor of political science in Renmin University of China.

The communiqu also asked inspectors to pay attention to overseas trips in government, after dozens of officials in Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces were caught in November last year taking lavish vacations disguised as business trips to the United States and Canada on taxpayers’ money.

“The budget for overseas trips taken by government officials should be cut, and the time they stay overseas should be strictly controlled,” the paper said. It also called for an end to the building of lavish government buildings and use of extravagant cars in government.

At the CCDI’s plenary session on Tuesday, President Hu Jintao also asked officials at all levels to be industrious and thrifty to cope with the economic downturn.

China: More Food Safety Alarm as Dogs Sicken, Die

January 12, 2009

A local distributor of a popular brand of dog food said Monday it had suspended sales of the product following reports that dogs who ate it died from poisoning.

China‘s recent food safety scandals have centered on locally made products; this time it wasn’t immediately clear whether the product was locally made or imported.

By ELAINE KURTENBACH, Associated Press Writer

A customer service manager at Shanghai Yidi Pet Co. said the company stopped selling Optima brand dog food last week following reports that more than a dozen dogs who ate it had died from aflatoxin poisoning.

“It’s upsetting to see so many dogs getting sick from the food,” said Gu, who gave only his last name as is common with many media-shy Chinese.

A report Monday in the Shanghai Daily newspaper said at least 20 dogs in four Chinese cities, including Beijing, had died since the end of November from liver complications from aflatoxin, a naturally occurring chemical from a fungus sometimes found on corn and other crops.

It wasn’t clear who makes the Optima brand involved in the complaints.

Read the rest:

China to launch pre-New Year food safety campaign

January 12, 2009

China will launch a pre-Lunar New Year crackdown on food safety, the Health Ministry said on Monday, focusing on illegal use of additives after a milk scandal last year killed at least six babies and made thousands sick.

The campaign would focus on seven provinces, including Hebei where the milk contamination scandal began, ministry spokesman Mao Qunan told a news conference.

“Groups and individuals who have broken the law will be dealt with firmly to completely ensure people’s food safety over the holiday period,” Mao said. “We will report important cases to society in a timely manner.”

The Lunar New Year starts on January 26, when traditionally millions of Chinese head back to their home towns to feast and celebrate with their families.

At least six young Chinese children died from kidney stones and more than 290,000 were made ill from melamine-contaminated milk formula, battering already dented faith in China-made goods and prompting massive recalls of dairy and other food products around the world.

Melamine is used to maker fertilizers, plastics and other industrial goods but gained notoriety as a cheap additive for milk and other foods. Rich in nitrogen, melamine can be used to fool tests for protein.

It has also been detected in eggs, chocolates, ice creams, yoghurts and other foods.

China has suffered other food additive scandals in the past, including the use of carcinogenic chemicals as food colorings.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie at Reuters)

China’s Tainted Milk Scandal Won’t Fade Away

January 12, 2009

China’s poisoned milk scandal won’t go away.  China continues to update its listing of the number of children sickened, angry parents protest, a court is to decide on wrongdoing of dairy company Sanlu executives and arrests in the case continue.

China and much of the world was roiled when scientists found melamine was being used to make milk look as if it had additional nourishment.  Melamine can be poisonous to people and hundreds of thousands of children fell ill.  At least six children died.

The situation uncovered wide ranging food safety irregularities in China.

Peace and Freedom


Chinese authorities have arrested 60 people in connection with the country’s tainted milk scandal that killed six infants and sickened nearly 300,000 more, state media reported.Above: Victims’ relatives outside a court hold banners that read “cannot deprive the victims’ rights.”


Victims' relatives outside a court hold banners that read "cannot deprive the victims' rights." 


China said on Monday a total of 296,000 children had fallen ill from consuming dairy products tainted with the industrial chemical melamine, up 2,000 from the previous official count.

The health ministry also told reporters at a briefing that a total of 52,898 babies had been treated in hospital for kidney problems caused by the toxic ingredient. Of these, 52,582 had been discharged.


Journalists gather round parents whose babies suffered from ... 
Journalists gather round parents whose babies suffered from melamine-tainted milk in Beijing. China said Monday that a total of 296,000 children had fallen ill from consuming dairy products tainted with the industrial chemical melamine, up 2,000 from the previous official count(AFP/File/Frederic J. Brown)

The health ministry announced in early December a figure of 294,000 babies sickened by melamine, a chemical normally used to make plastic.

Earlier ministry data also showed six deaths had been linked to melamine.

The figure was released as the nation awaited the verdicts in the first cases against officials from Sanlu Group, the company at the heart of the baby formula scandal.

The discovery that melamine was mixed into baby milk, in a bid to make it look richer in protein, shocked consumers both in China and abroad, dealing another blow to the reputation of the nation’s products.

Read the rest:

China’s dairy industry took deadly shortcuts to growth

January 8, 2009
Milk was an unpopular product only a generation ago, and then business executives and the government pushed its consumption. Some couldn’t compete and cheated.
By Barbara Demick
January 8, 2009
Reporting from Xingtang, China — Like many Chinese peasants of his generation, 53-year-old Wang Zhengnian had never seen a cow until he reached adulthood. He certainly never drank a glass of milk.

The fact that Wang now spends his days tending 400 cows on a farm near Beijing says a lot about the way China created a dairy industry out of thin air. But in their haste, the Chinese made mistakes that left six babies dead and hundreds of thousands ill from tainted milk.

Milk is not part of the traditional Chinese diet. Most Chinese adults are lactose-intolerant and many are repelled by the smell of dairy products.

But in the 1990s, economic planners decided that dairy cows were a quick way to improve rural incomes, particularly in northern provinces such as Hebei, Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang with cool climate, flat terrain and lack of other economic prospects. To encourage consumption, the propaganda machine spread the word that children needed to drink milk to grow as strong and tall as Westerners.

China farm 

Above: A cattle farm in the eastern Chinese city of Jimo. Milk and other dairy products weren’t popular before the 1990s. Photo: Wu Hong / European Pressphoto Agency

In a landscape that looks more Rust Belt than Dairy Belt, people opened farms in patches of land between derelict factories and villages.

“Cows have been good for us,” Wang said as he whistled for his herd to come in for milking last week in Xingtang County, 170 miles southwest of Beijing. “The business is bad right now because of the scandal, but it was great before.”

The now-bankrupt dairy producer Sanlu Group, headquartered in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei, was a big reason for the success. Company Chairwoman Tian Wenhua was a Communist Party official, but also a reformer. She now faces life imprisonment for covering up the scandal over Sanlu’s tainted milk.

China Serves Hard to Swallow Poison Food Trial for Western “Consumption”

Read the rest: