Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Burma’s State Media Still Mum on Tainted Milk Powder

The Irrawaddy News

The Burmese military government has still failed to take strong action to protect the public following the revelation of tainted powdered milk products imported from China, according to sources in Rangoon.

“Most families are still using the cheap Chinese-made unsafe milk powder,” a Rangoon resident said. “The government hasn’t publicized to avoid use of China-imported milk powder in state-run newspapers.”

She said the general public has received no clear information from state-run media about tainted baby milk formula.

She told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the semi-official Myanmar Times weekly newspaper earlier published a story that said all imported dairy products from China had been banned, but failed to cite the reason. There was no mention of specific brands.

The newspaper reported on Monday that the Burmese Commerce Minister said it barred entry of all dairy products made in China since Tuesday last week.

The health ministry is testing samples of dairy products, especially from China, according to Kyaw Myint, a health ministry official, the newspaper reported.

According to the report, Burmese military government said it will destroy 16 tons of powdered milk made by one of the 22 Chinese dairy companies that produced melamine-tainted products. The milk was confiscated in Rangoon last week.

However, the Chinese brands of Yashili, Suncare and Red Cow milk powder are popular in Burma and are still selling at local markets in Rangoon, said a sales manager at a Rangoon commodity company.

“I found prohibited milk powder at local markets,” he said. “Most people can’t afford Thai imported milk powder, so they buy the [Chinese] milk powder because it is cheaper than other imported milk powder.”

“A 500-gram box of Chinese-made Red Cow is 800 kyat (US $0.64). Thai-made milk powder is four times more,” he said.

He said some Rangoon stores, including City Mart stores and Ocean Supercenter, have informed customers that they are not selling Chinese-made milk powder.

Meanwhile, the privately owned weekly Voice Journal published on Monday reported that some Rangoon supermarkets and local markets are still selling Chinese-made milk powder.

The Sanlu Group, based in Shijiazhuang, one of China’s best-known dairy product companies recalled 700 tonnes of its formula on September 12 after the product was linked to the tainted milk scandal, which so far has made 53,000 Chinese children ill and caused the death of at least four babies.

Melamine can cause kidney stones and other complications. An ingredient in plastics and fertilizers, the chemical has been banned in foods, but was introduced by dairy suppliers in China to give watered-down milk the appearance of having higher protein levels.

China is the world’s second biggest market for baby milk powder. Sanlu has been the top-selling company in the sector for 15 years, with 18.3 percent of sales in 2007. In 2006, the country produced 32.2 million tons of milk, up from 8.6 million tons in 2000.

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