Arrests over milk candies amid latest crackdown on melamine
Three suspects have been arrested in Shaanxi province for selling and producing melamine-tainted milk products, following a new crackdown on the goods that started on Monday.
The three - Ma Shuanglin, Zhang Wenxue and Zhu Shuming - were arrested on Tuesday in the city of Weinan, while a fourth person involved in the case was out on bail because of severe heart disease, Xu Qiang, deputy director of the Shaanxi provincial public security department, said at a press conference yesterday.
A number of melamine-tainted milk candies produced by two companies in Guangdong and Fujian provinces were found on the market at the end of last year and the milk powder for the candy was bought from Weinan Lekang Dairy Company, police investigations found.
Investigations showed that the Lekang company bought 10 tons of expired milk powder in September and October last year from Ma Shuanglin, a farmer in Weinan, before mixing the powder to produce 32.5 tons of toxic milk powder. Of those, 28 tons were sold to the Longxin Food Company and 3 tons were sold to Zhenmei Company in Guangdong's Chao'an county.
"Longxin company sold 25 tons out of the 28 tons of toxic milk powder to Nanfang Food Company in Fujian province, and the latter used 10.4 tons to make candy," Xu said.
"And 1.1 tons of the 3 tons of toxic milk powder bought by Zhenmei company were used to produce candies," he said.
The remaining powder kept by Nanfang and Zhenmei companies had been destroyed and the candies sent to the market had been seized, while local government departments have tried to retrieve the candies already bought by consumers, he said.
Ma Shuanglin, 49, a farmer in Qiaoma village in Weinan, was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly selling food that did not meet hygiene standards. The remaining toxic milk powder he kept had been destroyed.
Also, Zhang Wenxue, 49, general manager of Lekang Company, and Zhu Shuming, 48, deputy manager responsible for production, were arrested at the same time for allegedly producing and selling food that did not meet hygiene standards, police said.
Tong Tianhu, 60, the sales manager of Lekang Company, was out on bail for health reasons, Xu said.
"Ma bought the toxic milk powder from a dairy company in Dali county in Weinan from April to August, 2008. Although the company was a legal one, its chaotic management led to the milk powder with melamine being sold to Ma," he said.
An inspection group sent by the central government also arrived in Weinan to boost investigations on the case while the local government made great efforts to check markets around the province to see if there was any toxic milk powder, Xu said.
"We have not found any toxic milk powder in the province and did not get any report of such cases," said Liu Ling, director of health supervision department under the Shaanxi provincial health bureau.
Domestic media reported melamine-tainted dairy products involved in the 2008 dairy scandal that should have been destroyed have resurfaced in several provinces.
Melamine is an industrial compound that can give a false positive on protein tests and cause kidney stones.
Despite a crackdown by health authorities in 2009, at least five companies are believed to have resold products linked to the milk scandal that left six babies dead and 300,000 people sick, Health Minister Chen Zhu, who headed the National Food Safety Rectification Office (NFSRO), said last Saturday.
The central government has dispatched eight teams of inspectors to 16 provinces to urge local governments to thoroughly investigate cases concerning food safety. Any illegal activities concerning food safety will be severely dealt with, an unnamed official with NFSRO was quoted by Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday as saying.
Food safety issues have become particularly sensitive in China after the 2008 milk scandal. The government has intensified supervision of food safety with new laws and regulations, including the Food Safety Law that took effect on June 1 last year. Nationwide checks of food safety have also been increased.
Xinhua contributed to the story