HONG KONG (AP) _ One of the world's largest chocolate makers, Britain's Cadbury, became the latest victim of China's tainted milk scandal Monday, ordering a recall of its Chinese-made products after questionable findings in tests. Two U.S. food makers, meanwhile, were investigating Indonesian claims that high traces of the industrial chemical melamine had been found in Chinese-made Oreos, M&Ms and Snickers, but stressed the same goods had tested negative in other Asian countries.
The milk scandal erupted earlier this month when China's public learned that melamine had been found in milk powder and was linked to kidney stones in children. Contamination has since turned up in liquid milk, yogurt and other products made with milk.
Four deaths have been blamed on the bad milk and some 54,000 children have developed kidney stones or other illnesses after drinking tainted baby formula. A Cadbury spokesman said preliminary test results showed traces of melamine in chocolates produced at the company's factory in Beijing, but said it was not yet known how much of the chemical was in them.
"These are preliminary findings from tests. And it's too early to say where the source was or the extent of it," the spokesman said, declining to be named because of company policy.
The British manufacturer said it recalled 11 types of chocolate made at the Beijing factory. The recalled chocolates are distributed in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, Nauru and Christmas Island, the company said in a statement.
It added, however, that Cadbury factories outside of China don't use Chinese dairy products and that all its dairy suppliers have been cleared by government milk testing. It did not say what governments.
Experts say some amount of melamine, which is used to make plastics, may be transferred from the environment during food processing. Ingesting a small amount of the chemical poses no danger, but health experts say melamine can cause kidney stones and lead to kidney failure.
Infants are particularly vulnerable. Meanwhile, Indonesia's Food and Drug Monitoring Agency said a dozen products distributed nationwide, including M&Ms, Oreos and Snickers repeatedly tested positive for melamine last week.
Mars Inc., which makes M&Ms and Snickers, and Kraft Foods Inc.
, which makes Oreos, said they would comply with the Indonesian government's recall but questioned the test results. Mars said in a statement issued in Hong Kong that tests by the governments of Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea and Malaysia had cleared Mars chocolate and other candy products.
Chinese regulators and a German laboratory also found milk powder supplied to Mars' factory in China free of melamine, the company said. "The vastly different results give Mars significant reason to question the validity of the Indonesian laboratory results," the statement said.
Kraft took a similar position. "We are trying to understand what methodology was used," Tod Gimbel, Kraft's director of corporate affairs for the Asia Pacific, told the AP by phone from Singapore.
"The results are unusually high," he added. The two companies said they would conduct their own tests and were looking into the possibility the suspect products were counterfeit.
Meanwhile, police in China's Hebei province arrested 22 people and seized more than 480 pounds (220 kilograms) of melamine in the raid, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The report said the melamine was produced in illicit plants and sold to breeding farms and purchasing stations.
Xinhua said 19 of the 22 detainees were managers of pastures, breeding farms and purchasing stations. It did not say when the raids took place.
Authorities believe suppliers added melamine, which is rich in nitrogen, to watered-down milk to deceive quality tests for protein. Chinese officials had previously arrested at least 18 people and detained more than two dozen suspects in connection with the scandal.
Governments in other Asian countries have tightened controls against Chinese dairy products. Myanmar's commerce ministry said it has barred entry of all Chinese dairy products since last Tuesday, the Myanmar Times, a government-affiliated weekly newspaper, reported Monday a significant move because China is the country's biggest trade partner.
It was the government's first public announcement of the suspension. Cheap dairy products from China are widely sold in impoverished Myanmar, but there have been no reported cases of illnesses.
The Philippines' health secretary said Monday the country will ban any imported dairy product whose origin has not been fully disclosed. If an exporter fails to make a full disclosure, officials will assume the milk product came from China and ban it, Francisco Duque III said.
"Of course it's always good to have evidence rather than just speculate, but we will have to shift the burden of proof to them because our duty is to protect public health," Duque told the AP..
6 months ago