The Chinese government is launching a nationwide registry aimed at keeping melamine out of the food supply and in the industrial sector, where the chemical is typically used for making plastic products.
China’s general office of the State Council issued a notice saying the purchase and sale of the industrial chemical–which continues to show up as a dairy adulterant to create the facade of higher protein content–must be conducted on a “real-name” basis so that products can be traced, according to state media. The notice requires that dairy manufacturers keep records of all raw materials purchased and test for melamine before sending product into commerce.
“In cases of delayed crackdowns against illegal dairy production dens or re-emergence of melamine-tainted milk products, local governments should be held accountable,” reads the notice. “Local governments should send officials to be stationed at all dairy enterprises to enforce relevant food safety regulations.”
Chinese public health officials have struggled to earn consumer confidence and crack down on dairy adulteration in the wake of a highly publicized 2008 melamine dairy scandal that killed six infants and sickened more than 300,000.
In July, Chinese authorities seized 76 tons of milk containing melamine, some of the products contained over 550 times the legal limit of the chemical, bringing the total amount reportedly seized in 2010 to 25,000 tons.
Last week, authorities in China’s Shanxi province arrested seven people suspected of producing 26 tons of melamine-laced milk. Some reports suggested the tainted dairy was leftover from the 2008 scandal, even though the government has long since ordered all of melamine dairy destroyed.
Wang Dingmian, former chairman of the Guangdong Provincial Dairy Association, told China Daily that the notice is “concrete” but improved safety will depend on effective implementation. Dingmian says the punishments are too light for offenders. He also believes transparency will play a role in holding dairy companies accountable.
“Consumers should be granted the full right to know, so they can make their own choices as to which products to choose. Public selection is the best way to eliminate low-quality products and manufacturers,” he said. “But first of all, the government and the media has the responsibility to ensure transparent information.”