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Dairy giants issue first public apology for scandal
By He Bolin (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-10-13 07:43

Top managers of the country's three leading dairy companies - Mengniu, Yili and Bright Dairy - issued their first public apology Sunday for their companies' involvement in the ongoing contaminated milk scandal.

During a talk show program, Dialogue, broadcast last night on the economic channel of China Central Television, executives of the three companies admitted to "the problems and mistakes" of their firms.

Their apology came one month after the surfacing of the scandal involving tainted milk products from dairy giant Sanlu Group, in which melamine-contaminated baby formula had sickened thousands of infants nationwide with kidney-related illnesses.

Products from three dairy brands were also tested and found to be contaminated with melamine, a chemical that was added to the dairy products to raise protein levels.

Guo Benheng, CEO of Shanghai-based Bright Dairy, confessed that the scandal shocked the industry and exposed problems such as loose quality supervision and lack of business ethics, which seriously affected consumer confidence in the industry.

"All companies should guarantee quality and safety, and build market confidence from scratch," said Zhao Yuanhua, Mengniu's marketing chief. The company is based in Hohhot, capital of Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

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Responding to an estimate that the three enterprises may have suffered a loss of 200 million yuan ($29 million) in the scandal, all three executives believed the final figure could be much higher.

The scandal broke out early last month, when 14 infants from Gansu province, all of whom had been drinking formula produced by Sanlu, were found afflicted with kidney stones.

So far, more than 53,000 children across the country have been diagnosed with similar problems.

After the scandal spread to include more dairy brands and products, enterprises reportedly strengthened self-monitoring and other measures, to ensure milk products on the market are safe for consumption.

The latest tests by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine showed that samples of 855 batches from 77 brands of liquid milk produced after Sept 14 did not contain melamine.