Officials shut down Shanghai dairy

New York Times / January 2, 2010

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SHANGHAI - Chinese authorities shut down a dairy producer here and arrested three of its executives after tests showed the company was producing milk powder contaminated with melamine, the same industrial chemical that in 2008 was blamed for one of this country’s worst food safety scandals.

The announcement was made just more than two weeks after three other men were arrested at a dairy company in Shaanxi Province for producing milk powder tainted with melamine.

The arrests suggest that regulators are more aggressively monitoring the dairy market after six children died and more than 300,000 others were sickened by melamine-tainted milk in 2008.

That scandal led to international bans on imports of Chinese-made dairy goods.

But the recent cases also suggest that even after 20 of the country’s biggest dairy producers were blamed for allowing melamine to taint their products in 2008, and even after several people were jailed and executed for their role in the scandal, the chemical continues to seep into the nation’s dairy goods.

City inspectors closed the Shanghai Panda Dairy Co. on Thursday for producing milk that had “unacceptably high levels’’ of melamine, according to the state-run news media.

Chinese law allows a little more than a milligram of melamine in every pound of food product; any more threatens to cause kidney stones and other ills, particularly in children.

The government said Shanghai Panda was one of the companies on the melamine blacklist after the 2008 scandal, recording some of the highest levels of contamination. But the company was allowed to resume production after promises to strengthen its safety procedures.