Pathogen in some Sanlu formulas can cause meningitis or gut infections
Reuters, Associated Press
In another blow to China’s food safety record, the Gansu authorities revealed that a pathogenic bacteria has been found in Sanlu’s milk powder that was also contaminated with melamine, the Lanzhou Morning Post reported.
This latest revelation came as China said yesterday that the melamine-tainted milk scandal had been brought under control and recently tested liquid milk samples showed no traces of the toxic chemical.
The Gansu Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision in north-western China issued an emergency notice on Sunday saying that Sanlu’s formulas for older babies contained enterobacter sakazakii as well as the toxic chemical melamine, the newspaper said.
The bacteria, enterobacter sakazakii, can cause meningitis or severe gut infections. It is a new species defined in recent years and recognised by the World Health Organisation as one key pathogen that leads to infant mortality.
This is not the first time that the bacteria is found in powdered infant formula. In September 2002, the Hong Kong Food and Environmental Hygiene Department found enterobacter Sakazakii in a German infant formula Special Batch Milupa HN25.
It is not yet known when, and how the bacteria entered the Sanlu formula, the Lanzhou Morning Post said.
The Gansu authorities have sent the test results to the national-level food quality and safety inspection centre for further action.
Besides affecting premature babies, the bacteria is also harmful to people of all ages, particularly those with weakened immune systems.
So far, there have been no reports of sickness or deaths triggered by enterobacter sakazakii infection involving Sanlu’s products, according to the Post.
In a bid to assure the world that Chinese products are safe, China’s national quality watchdog chief inspection official Xiang Yuzhang told reporters in Beijing: ” There is no problem.”
” It has been brought under control, more or less. There are no more problems in the market. As far as I know, there will be no more bad news.”
China’s quality control agency said on it’s website ( http://www.aqsiq.gov.cn ) that 235 samples of carton milk and drinking yogurts produced since last Sunday and sold across the country had shown no signs of melamine.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told an audience in New York that China would strive to bring its food safety standards up to international levels, describing as a painful lesson the more than 50,000 children sick from drinking chemical-laced milk, which also left four dead.
Speaking to China, where United States and European officials were attending seminars on product safety, Ms Nancy Nord, acting head of the US Consumer Products Safety Commission, said: ” The melamine situation just underscores the message that we are trying to deliver, and that is you have to know what’s coming into your factory and what’s going out of your factory.”
Yesterday, Mr Li Weiyi, a spokesman for the Cabinet-level Taiwan Affairs Officers, issued a public apology to consumers in Taiwan as the authorities there ordered China-made milk products and vegetables-based proteins off store shelves.
Taiwanese officials say at least seven Taiwanese companies have imported contaminated proteins from China. They say the proteins are made from corn or other vegetables but may be mixed with tainted milk products to improve their favour.
Global consumer goods giant Unilever also said it had removed its Lipton green milk tea product from store shelves in Taiwan as it might have used tainted milk from Chinese companies.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday called for the creation of a food safety hot-line with China.
Further away, British supermarket chain Tesco removed White Rabbit Creamy Candies from its shelves after tests elsewhere found traces of melamine in the Chinese-made sweets.
From Ivory Coast in West Africa to Tanzania in the east, governments have also joined the list of countries blocking Chinese milk imports over concerns that they could be contaminated.
Sanlu Group, the Hebei-based dairy at the centre of the scandal, will not recover from the damage it has suffered, its New Zealand partner said yesterday.
The Chinese government has now taken control of Sanlu –43 per cent owned by New Zealand’s Fonterra Cooperative –and shut down its operations, Fonterra Chief Executive Andrew Ferrier said at a briefing.
According to the Cabinet probe, Sanlu had received complaints about its infant formula as early as December last year. It discovered melamine in its milk powder in June but did not alert the government officials until Aug 2.
Nitrogen-rich melamine has been added to substandard or watered-down milk to fool quality checks, which often use nitrogen levels to measure the amount of protein in milk.
Reuters, Associated Press