In early July, popular Chinese milk was found to contain illegal food additives. It is not clear whether the company’s products have been exported. But recently, Taiwan has discovered many toxic agricultural products have been imported into the country from China.

As the Liberty Times Net reported, Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration on July 12 found unqualified food exports from mainland China, accounting for one-third of the total exports. 

These products, including tea tree mushrooms, crushed cumin seeds, and dried horse chestnut, contain pesticide residues exceeding the standard.

The regulator announced that it detected excessive levels of benzopyrene in camellia oil exported from China and imported by the “Youjun” company.

Benzopyrene is highly carcinogenic and is a first-class carcinogen. It is confirmed to cause cancer in humans. 

The regulator has discovered nearly 7,500 kg of monkey-head mushrooms imported from China again exceeds the pesticide standard. 

Dried tea tree mushrooms have the same issue, with pesticide residues exceeding the limit.

According to Lin Xuyang, deputy director of the North District Management Center, 18 batches of edible fungi were found to exceed the pesticide limit in January this year. 

This isn’t the first time; in China’s biggest food scandal in 2008, products contaminated with melamine were exported to more than 45 countries and territories, causing terror to the world. A growing number of countries have quickly responded to the scandal of melamine-tainted products from China.

According to the National Library of Medicine, over 30 countries and territories reported melamine findings in products originating from China or in products containing ingredients from China, including the United States, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Hongkong, and so on.

As declared by China and importing countries, 15 countries imported contaminated products, including Bangladesh, Brunei, Myanmar, and Vietnam, among others. 

Besides, many countries implemented testing of all imported Chinese products. Other countries focused testing on implicated products, and 68 countries banned or recalled food suspected of containing melamine. 

Other dairy products also contaminated with melamine

Melamine is used in making plastics and is high in nitrogen. Companies or individuals in China put melamine on foods to make products appear to have more protein content. In small amounts, it is harmless. But, sustained use can cause kidney stones and renal failure, especially among children.

The substance was also found in various Chinese dairy products in September 2008. In a test of 67 dairy products, White Rabbit products were discovered to contain melamine more than six times the permissible limit.

After discovering melamine, White Rabbit Candy halted both domestic and international sales.

White Rabbit Candy was one of the few brands of candies widely exported from China and among the most well-known. An employee of the Shanghai-based company’s administrative office told CNN that 40 countries imported the candy, including the United States.

White Rabbit Candy was distributed to nine states through wholesale distributors to retail stores. It was recalled in September 2008. 

The European Union also announced a ban on imported baby food containing Chinese milk on September 25, 2008.

Besides, New Zealand, Singapore, Britain, and Hong Kong have all reported finding the candy.

White Rabbit candies were stocked at Tesco stores in the U.K., which sell ethnic foods from around the world. The Guardian reported that Tesco removed the sweets as the Food Standards Agency’s recommendation.

A Tesco representative said, “As a precautionary measure, we have withdrawn White Rabbit Candies from the very small number of U.K. stores that sell them as part of our ethnic range.”

Singapore announced a recall of all Chinese milk products, including The White Rabbit Candy. 

Singapore had also already halted the import and sale of milk and dairy products from China after reporting that it had discovered indications of melamine in three Chinese-made dairy products. 

Earlier, the Singaporean agri-food agency had found melamine in two other Chinese imports: strawberry-flavored milk under the Dutch Lady brand and “Choice Dairy Fruit Bar Yogurt Flavored Ice Confection” under the Yili brand.

The World Health Organization and Unicef, the UN Children’s Fund, called for stricter regulations governing children’s food in a joint statement on September 25, 2008.

It said, “Whilst any attempt to deceive the public in the area of food production and marketing is unacceptable, deliberate contamination of foods intended for consumption by vulnerable infants and young children is particularly deplorable.”

Food contaminated with melamine is not only found in milk.

According to a spokeswoman for the Korean Food and Drug Safety Authority, on September 25, after the discovery of Chinese cookies tainted with melamine in the nation, the government prohibited the importation of all Chinese items containing milk. 

The biscuits, known as Me Sarang Custard, are made in China but sold under Haitai, a well-known South Korean confectionery.

The New York Times reported on September 26 that the King Car Food Industrial Company of Taiwan recalled seven Mr. Brown-branded items in September 2008.

Tests conducted by the company in Taiwan revealed that the non-dairy creamer produced in China was melamine-tainted.

Heinz Foods recalled their vegetable formula baby cereal in Hong Kong because some samples revealed melamine contamination.

Pizza Hut said that it had discovered tainted cheese packs in Taiwan.

Macao officials reported that the chemical was found in koala-shaped cookies produced by a Japanese-owned company. 

The largest trading corporation in Japan, Mitsui & Co., announced on October 16, 2008, that it had recalled egg powder after finding a trace quantity of melamine inside it. 

Egg powder is commonly used to flavor confectionery items, cooked pasta, and pastries.

According to China Post, Mitsui brought in 20 tons of Chinese egg powder in September. Among them, 0.4 tons of egg powder had already been consumed.

Separately, the Japanese health ministry also said that frozen fried chicken imported from China contained melamine.

Melamine is the same industrial contaminant from China that killed thousands. They included dogs and cats in the United States in 2007. 

The U.S learned on March 15, 2007, that vegetable proteins used as ingredients in pet food and imported into the United States from China were found to contain pollutants.

Fish and farm animals were fed with some of the contaminated pet food. Some animals that consumed the contaminated feed were later transformed into human food.

The companies asked to withdraw more than 60 million cans and packs of more than 100 brands.

Pet owners have posted on Petconnection.com information about their losses. In total, 3,242 deaths have been reported: among them, over 1,700 were cats, and around 1,500 were dogs. Moreover, 6,000 pets were reported ill. 

 The FDA prohibited the importation of wheat gluten from China’s Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development in April 2007 because the items included melamine.

In the scandal of toxic food, what is China’s responsibility? 

Peter Ben Embarek, WHO Food Safety Scientist, attributes a large portion of the issues to China’s rapid rise in recent decades in terms of food, agricultural, and industrial production. The organizations in charge of enforcing regulations and keeping track of food safety were not evolving at the same pace.

Voice of America cited Embarek saying, “And that opened the gates and the door to all kinds of, I would say, misbehavior and incidents and criminal and intentional acts like we have seen in this case.” 

 “The large scale of this event ensures that it was clearly not an isolated accident. It was a large-scale intentional activity to deceive consumers for simple, basic, short-term profits.”

However, China didn’t think so. 

Beijing argued that its food safety issues were overstated, presumably to limit the surge in Chinese imports through protectionist means.

But the interview in The New York Times with several Chinese chemical traders on October 31, 2008, showed the other story.

Qin Huaizhen, manager at the Gaocheng Kaishun Chemical Co. in Shijiazhuang, said, “I heard some melamine dealers still sell to animal feed producers.”

“In Shandong province, many animal feed manufacturers buy melamine scrap.”

Many manufacturers said that they thought melamine scrap was nontoxic and wouldn’t hurt people or animals. 

Niu Qinglin, manager of the Hebei Jinglong Fengli Chemical Co., said, “Before the Sanlu scandal, we were not banned from selling melamine to anyone.” 

 “I had heard melamine vendors sell melamine to animal feed companies and food companies; it was common before the Sanlu scandal.”

Niu, however, said he never sold melamine or melamine scrap to food or feed producers. And he noted that regulators had moved in on the trade. He added, “Now, the government regulates that melamine cannot be sold to any animal feed manufacturers or food processing companies.”  

China criticized nations that banned Chinese milk at a World Trade Organization meeting on October 9, 2008, after discovering that some of the nation’s dairy products were tainted with industrial melamine.

They urged the 153 members of the WTO to use the proper notification process for the organization and to base import restrictions on scientific risk assessments.

Chinese officials asserted that milk powder and other dairy products containing melamine were tainted accidentally. It was contrary to a WHO accusation that the chemical was intentionally added.

Besides, Xinhua News Agency, China’s official state press agency 

on September 15, 2008, published an article. It said that the authorities in Hebei apprehended a total of 19 individuals from private milk collecting stations. They allegedly added melamine into the milk supplied to the Sanlu Group.

Chinese officials also said that China was making significant efforts to address the issue and that no contamination has been found since September 20.

To respond to this, a user at an online forum in Ukraine named DavEd said, “Even if countries allowed Chinese milk products back into their countries, who would purchase them?

“China has had too many contaminated products exported and a halt is in order. They will have to learn the hard way that consumers are very slow to trust previously contaminated products once bitten.”

Another user said, “I was just told that a family friend went to the supermarket to buy salmon and found wild salmon. The label said it was from China. They put it down immediately. So figure, it’s not just milk that is hurting China’s export, it’s also reflecting on other Chinese products and justifiably so.”

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