In a sign that the classic communism of old Mao’s China still lives, farmers and feed merchants using melamine were labeled as “evil criminals” and a “black nests of gangsters” subject to ” severe punishment” as inspectors swooped down to find those responsible for the tainted food scandal that is now more than 18 months old…. makers deliberately added an industrial chemical to their products, ignoring a year-old government rule meant to protect China’s food supply, a government official said.
From the Associated Press
Inspection teams have descended on feed makers nationwide in a “punishment” campaign to ferret out those found using excessive amounts of the chemical melamine, Agriculture Ministry official Wang Zhicai said in remarks posted on the ministry’s Web site and carried by state media Saturday.
Among the quarter of a million feed-makers and animal breeding farms inspected, inspectors found more than 500 engaged in illegal or questionable practices, with police further investigating 27 companies, Wang said. He likened the behavior of some of the companies to organized crime, calling them “black nests of gangsters.”
“Adding melamine to feed is a criminal act and must be firmly attacked,” Wang said.
A workers sorts eggs into grades after they go through ultraviolet disinfection scan at a major eggs production factory in suburban Beijing, China, Friday, Oct. 31, 2008. Three more Chinese brands of eggs containing melamine have been identified and a local government has acknowledged that officials knew about the contamination for a month before it was publicly disclosed.(AP Photo/Andy Wong)
His remarks were the latest by a government that is trying to appear responsive to a widening food scandal. In the nearly two months since the government first acknowledged that melamine contaminated the milk supply, the chemical has been detected in eggs, candy and other products. Its presence in feed raises fears about the safety of meat and fish.
Commonly used in plastics and fertilizers, melamine is high in nitrogen, which registers as high protein levels in routine tests of food and feed. Though experts say at low levels it does not pose a risk to human health, higher concentrations harm the kidneys.
At least four children died from drinking tainted infant formula and milk powder and tens of thousands of others were sickened. The broad array of tainted products — and the government’s delayed response — has damaged public confidence at home and raised further questions about the quality of Chinese products in crucial export markets.