BEIJING -- China's quality supervision authority has dispatched more than 5,000 inspectors to carry out round-the-clock scrutiny at dairy factories in an effort to restore consumer confidence in the wake of the scandal over the melamine contamination of milk.
Wang Yong, director of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), told Xinhua that the government would strive to ensure all dairy products manufactured after Sept. 14 were melamine-free and safe.
Reports on testing milk are posted on shelf at a supermarket in Shijiazhuang, capital city of North China's Hebei Province Sept. 27, 2008. [Xinhua]
"Food safety concerns not only the health of the public, but also the life of business, " Wang said.
Wang, who took up the post last month after predecessor Li Changjiang was sacked, vowed to "make a substantial change in the production and distribution of dairy products".
Calling the site inspections an "unusual measure", he said 1,644 teams had covered all dairy producers across the country and would be present through the whole production process.
Inspectors would ensure all raw materials were stored properly, with the producers clearly marked and quality certified.
Chemicals including melamine and cyanuric acid, non-food raw materials, recycled foodstuffs and deteriorated raw materials would be weeded out, while food addictives must be registered with local quality supervision departments.
In-house quality control personnel must sample test every batch of goods under scrutiny by AQSIQ inspectors, who could advise management to transfer or sack incapable quality control personnel, he said.
Inspectors would also see that factory laboratories and equipment met standards. Products for shipping or delivery must have complete production records and the endorsement of AQSIQ inspectors.
Dairy producers unable to carry out laboratory tests in their factories were required to go to public inspection and quarantine institutions.
Only 12 food quality inspection institutions, all in Beijing, had been verified as qualified to test for melamine, the chemical used to cheat on protein tests of diluted raw milk.
Wang said the verification of other institutions was continuing and a longer list was expected to be released by the Certification and Accreditation Administration.
Enterprises producing or using melamine would be purged while inspection of exports would be tightened in line with the quality standards of import nations, he said.
Wang also planned to put in place a set of systems securing scientific analysis, encouraging both public and private investigation and rewarding whistle-blowers.
He said fundamental work, such as establishing measurements and standards, accreditation and certification, quality inspection and quarantine as well as the utilization of data would be taken as priorities.
"Without the concerted efforts of local governments and enterprises, the safety of the general public could not be guaranteed," Wang said.
Under State Council regulations, food safety has been listed in the management targets of local government leaders above county level, which means incompetent officials face dismissal or disciplinary penalties.
An AQSIQ statement released on Sunday said the latest sample tests, the seventh since mid-September, showed all of the 128 batches of baby formula under 38 brands in 10 provinces were found free of melamine.
Another 212 batches of milk powder under 84 brands in 21 provinces tested were also melamine free. Previously failed brands such as Yili, Yashili, Guangming Songhe, ChenGuan and Mengniu all passed the latest tests.
Department stores and supermarkets have been required to post the lists of qualified enterprises and their products, set up safe dairy counters and secure sufficient supply of quality milk products.
A nationwide inspection of baby milk powder was ordered on Sept. 11 after media reports that products from Sanlu and other Chinese brands contained melamine. Testing has been broadened from baby formula to other types of milk products.