The Chinese government, struggling to contain the fallout from a scandal over contaminated milk and eggs, announced a wide range of food safety measures on Thursday aimed at reining in abuses in the dairy industry.
The State Council, China’s cabinet, issued several new rules it says will govern all aspects of the industry, from cow breeding and animal feed to the packaging and sales of milk.
By Andrew Jacobs
The New York Times
An official prepared to destroy confiscated milk powder in Shanghai last week. Photo: Reuters
Since September, when Chinese-made milk powder was found to be adulterated with the industrial chemical melamine, at least four infants who drank the formula have died and more than 50,000 children have fallen ill. On Thursday, China’s Health Ministry said that more than 1,000 infants were still hospitalized with kidney damage, Reuters reported. The scandal has led to recalls of milk products across the world, embarrassed the Chinese government and devastated domestic dairy farmers and milk producers.
“The crisis has put China’s diary industry in peril and exposed major problems existing in the quality control and supervision of the industry,” said an official with China’s National Development and Reform Commission, according to a posting on the agency’s Web site.
In announcing the new measures, the government said it would issue new laws and standards by next October, and that by 2011, “the goal is to have well-bred cows and a mass-producing dairy industry,” according to Xinhua, the official news agency. The government said it would also provide loans and grants to dairy farmers and milk producers struggling to survive the crisis.
This is not the first time regulators have pledged to clean up the nation’s fast-growing agriculture industry. A similar cry erupted early last year when it was discovered that melamine-tainted pet food ingredients from China had sickened thousands of cats and dogs in the United States. At that time, the government promptly banned melamine as an animal feed additive and declared the problem under control.