Seoul / Beijing: India, South Korea and France banned Chinese dairy products as the World Health Organization (WHO) said the chemical contamination that has killed four infants and sickened 53,000 in China is “deplorable”.
“Deliberate contamination of foods intended for consumption by vulnerable infants and young children is particularly deplorable,” WHO said in a statement on Thursday.
India, Asia’s third largest economy, will ban dairy products from China for three months. South Korea’s ban comes after melamine was found in a snack imported from China and a biscuit brand from Hong Kong, while in France any food containing Chinese milk products must be removed from stores and cannot be sold.
The tainted-milk scandal has revived concerns about Chinese food safety controls after previous scares over seafood, dumplings and pet food. More than 20 countries and markets in Asia, Africa and Europe have recalled, or restricted Chinese dairy sales after Sanlu Group Co., China Mengniu Dairy Co., and 20 producers sold contaminated products.
“Given the overall reliance on China is increasing more than ever, the scandal added more fuel to concerns over the safety of Chinese foods,” Kim Min Jeong, an analyst at Eugene Investment and Securities Co. Ltd in Seoul, said over the phone. “Mothers in particular will shy away from such products.”
Melamine, used to produce plastic and tan leather, makes the protein content in diluted milk appear higher than it is, allowing some sellers to dairy makers to cut costs.
The bans are hurting Mengniu’s sales overseas, Zhao Yuan Hua, the company’s Beijing-based spokeswoman, said by phone on Thursday. Sales in China are also declining, she said, without providing figures. Mengniu’s stock jumped as much as 8% to HK$8.65 (Rs51.55) in Hong Kong on Thursday, after slumping 60% on 23 September, when it resumed after a four day halt.
Tesco Plc., the UK’s biggest supermarket chain, withdrew a range of candy from some British stores on concerns over contamination.
South Korean authorities began testing imported Chinese food on 18 September and will toughen inspections of all Chinese food products, the Korea food and drug administration said. All other dairy products made by the two companies concerned will be recalled, the agency said.
Korea’s Haitai Confectionery and Foods Co. Ltd, which imports the snack from China found to have melamine, began recalling the product, company spokesman So Sung Soo said in a phone interview on Thursday.
India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade said its ban takes effect immediately.
Malaysia will check food from China at all entry points, health minister Liow Tiong Lai said.
The widening scandal will make it harder for China to export meat products to the US for the first time, as it is likely to result in more testing and lawmakers’ calls for tougher controls, Richard Raymond, head of the US department of agriculture’s food safety and inspection service, said in Beijing on Wednesday.
China exported $359 million (Rs1,662 crore today) of dairy products and eggs last year, 90% more than the previous year, according to the customs bureau. The country is the world’s largest agricultural producer.
As many as 25 countries and markets, including Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, have either banned, or recalled Chinese dairy products, or goods made using milk from China after the government on 11 September said Sanlu sold products containing melamine. New Zealand’s Fonterra Cooperative Group owns 43% of Sanlu, one of the country’s biggest milk powder makers and the first identified as having produced tainted milk.