China must do more to track down hidden caches of dairy laced with the toxic chemical melamine after large batches turned up recently in two provinces, a Chinese health ministry official said Tuesday.
Chen Rui, an assistant director of the Ministry of Health’s Food Safety and Health Inspection Bureau, said that 25,000 tonnes of melamine-tainted dairy products have been destroyed since news media first reported in 2008 that children were falling sick and dying from drinking contaminated milk and infant formula.
Chen said the discovery last month of more tainted milk powder in Qinghai and Jilin provinces shows that the government needs to improve monitoring and enforcement.
“The abrupt reoccurrence of this type of incident shows that we need to continue to step up our efforts in this work,” Chen told a news conference. “Food safety incidents must be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators must be severely punished.”
He said the latest cases were still being investigated and he could not yet say whether they involved newly tainted milk or batches produced before the scandal broke that were stockpiled instead of being destroyed.
At least six children died and 300,000 were sickened in the 2008 scandal. Investigators found that milk suppliers were watering down milk and then adding melamine to make the protein content seem higher.