By Julia Gu
Dec. 28 – India’s central government issued a notification on December 26, stating that it has extended its prohibition on the import of milk and milk products from China until June 24, 2012.
According to the notification by India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), the prohibited milk products from China include chocolates and chocolate products, candies, confectionary, any other kind of food that contains milk or milk solids.
India has banned milk and milk products from China since September 2008 and the prohibition was set to expire on December 24 of this year, Indian media reported.
Though the DGFT didn’t give further information regarding the extended ban, it’s understood that the Indian government is concerned over the recent milk contamination in China, which involved the largest dairy product company – Mengniu Dairy Group.
China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) has recently conducted a sample check on Mengniu’s dairy products and detected the poison aflatoxin, which is known to cause liver cancer. AQSIQ said the pure milk produced by Mengniu’s division in Meishan city of Sichuan Province contained 1.2 micrograms per kilogram of ‘Aflatoxin M1′, which is apparently more than doubled the allowed maximum of 0.5 micrograms per kilogram.
“The problem was found before the products reached the market. The company has immediately sealed up and destroyed the products,” Mengniu said in a statement apologizing and pledging to intensify supervision on food safety. Mengniu later explained that the problem came from feeding mildewed and rotten forage to cattle.
The Chinese government has been trying to tackle food safety violations in order to restore its citizens’ faith in the authorities after a series of embarrassing high-profile product issues. Mengniu Dairy’s contaminated milk is the latest scare for China’s scandalous dairy industry, which was at the center of the biggest scandal in China’s food safety problem in 2008 when the industrial chemical melamine was found out milk products. It’s reported that dairy producers illegally added the deadly chemical in the milk to give the appearance of higher protein content, which in fact left six babies dead and another 300,000 diseased after drinking their product. The 2008 dairy scandal involved many big firms including Mengniu, Yili Group, as well as Bright Dairy.
The cancer-causing toxin, coupled with previous contaminations, seems to have escalated the already plummeting consumer confidence in the national diary giants.
In February 2009 Mengniu’s Telunsu pure milk was found to contain a chemical, which was called Osteoblast Milk Protein (OMP) by the company. The AQSIQ later found out that the OMP causes cancer. Mengniu Group argued that the ingredient had been approved by the international authoritative organizations such as Food and Drug Administration (FDA). AQSIQ temporarily shutdown Mengniu’s Telunsu milk, which later came back to market. In April of this year, 251 pupils fell ill after drinking Mengniu milk at a school in the northwestern Shaanxi Province.
Frequent safety issues in China’s dairy companies reveal vicious competition among producers, Chinese media reported. Mengniu’s spokesperson told reporters that there’s not one dairy firm in China that doesn’t have rotten forage problem, indicating that milk produced by other companies might have similar issues, which is nightmarish news for Chinese consumers.