CHINA> National
Govt vows to beef up dairy supervision
By Guan Xiaofeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-10-02 09:38

The authorities will work on the country's monitoring system for dairy products to win back consumers' trust amid a scandal involving tainted milk, Commerce Minister Chen Deming said on Wednesday.

"The government will improve quality inspection on dairy products," Chen said.

"But more importantly, the dairy enterprises must win consumers' faith through honesty."

The minister's assurance come amid a scandal involving Chinese dairy products tainted with melamine.

The chemical has been detected in baby formula and other milk products from more than 20 Chinese dairy companies, including industry giant Sanlu Group, in the past few weeks.

Suppliers reportedly added it to watered-down milk to lower costs because its high nitrogen content masks the resulting protein deficiency.

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At least three babies have reportedly died and 13,000 others hospitalized nationwide by the tainted products.

Wen Honghai, director of the health bureau of Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital of Hebei where Sanlu is based, said at a press briefing yesterday that demand for health checks of babies fed by Sanlu infant formula had ebbed.

"Daily check-ups had dropped from a peak of 42,314 babies to the present fewer than 5,000," he said.

He said the city had examined 256,153 children fed by infant formula from Sept 15 to Sept 30.

Among them, 136,275 children were reportedly fed with Sanlu milk powder.

Doctors diagnosed 3,653 children as being sickened by melamine-tainted milk, but only 58 required hospitalization, he said.

Meanwhile, sales of domestic dairy products have generally improved after the authorities took measures to ensure the quality of newly manufactured products, the commerce minister said.

Domestic infant formula sales have been restores to 80 percent of normal levels and liquid milk sales are back at 75 percent as of Tuesday, ministry figures showed.

Agriculture Minister Sun Zhenghua said the government will also make greater efforts to help dairy farmers overcome the present difficulty caused by the milk contamination scandal.

"We must protect dairy farmers' lawful interests and help them overcome the crisis," he said.

"We want to see a healthy and steady development of the dairy industry."

Sun said dairy farmers will be given subsidies and industry professionals will be sent to the ground to offer technological assistance.