Police in China have arrested six people and detained 41 others for allegedly distributing milk powder tainted with the same chemical which killed infants in a 2008 scandal, state media said yesterday.
Three of the six were employees of a factory in the northwestern province of Qinghai, which last month was found to have shipped milk powder contaminated with melamine up to 500 times beyond the permitted limit to neighboring Gansu Province, Xinhua news agency reported.
The three others arrested were suspected of involvement in hiding tainted milk products that should have been destroyed in 2008 and then selling them to the Qinghai plant, the agency said, citing food safety authorities.
More than 124 tonnes of the milk powder in Qinghai have been seized since then, while another sweep found 103 tonnes of milk powder from four dairy brands in Hebei and Shanxi provinces and Tianjin laced with melamine, Xinhua said.
Melamine is used to make plastics but has been widely and illegally added to dairy products in China to give the appearance of higher protein content.
In 2008, it was found in products from 22 Chinese dairy companies in a massive scandal blamed for the deaths of at least six infants and for making 300,000 others ill across China.
It also led to huge worldwide recalls of Chinese dairy products.
China’s government has repeatedly said all tainted products were seized and destroyed after the scandal and that there was no further public health threat, but reports of contaminated products continue to trickle out.
Earlier this month, China’s health ministry refuted claims that milk powder produced by the NASDAQ-listed Chinese company Synutra had caused three infant girls to grow breasts.