Got Melamine? Chinese Officials Accused of Covering Up Tainted Milk

The Chinese government is again being accused of not acting swiftly enough to shutdown another company producing tainted food. The most recent scandal follows the 2008 case where the government allowed melamine-tainted infant formula to sicken 300,000 babies (and causing death for six babies). The same chemical is involved in the shutting down of the Shanghai Panda company, which produces condensed milk and milk powder.

It now appears that the government was aware of allegations against the Shanghai Panda company as early as February last year. The company was one of those implicated in the earlier food scandal.

What is curious is that authorities said that the findings were not made public due to the criminal investigation. That is an odd approach to such a crisis. You allow the company to continue to operate while you criminally investigate their giving tainted milk products to families.

Government sources insist that tainted product was destroyed during the investigation.

In one of my visits to China, I presented a paper calling for the use of “private attorneys general” to deter environmental and other abuses by both the government and industry. This is an example of how the Chinese regulatory system is either unable or unwilling to supply an effective deterrent against such problems.

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5 thoughts on “Got Melamine? Chinese Officials Accused of Covering Up Tainted Milk”

  1. Actually melamine itself is non-poisonous. It’s a binary poison.

    The other component is cyanuric acid, which is also non-poisonous.

    The problem starts because both of these compounds have a high concentration of nitrogen per unit weight. Melamine has 6 nitrogen atoms, while cyanuric acid has 3. Foods and drinks like milk etc. can be watered down, and simple addition of either one of these compounds will fool analytical tests for protein content.

    Apparently, they each have a similar price, and the prices of both are apparently a little volatile. The evidence for that is the abundance of both melamine tainted and cyanuric acid tainted products originating in China.

    When the tiniest amounts of both are present, they polymerize into a large complex polymer, melamine cyanurate. This is a neat reaction- they’re inside-out versions of each other and the sequence is an alternating series of melamine – cyanurate – melamine – cyanurate – melamine – cyanurate.

    So one Chinese manufacturer’s adulterant is reacting with another Chinese manufacturer’s adulterant, and the result is death from the formation of needle-like crystals in people’s kidneys.

  2. Buddha:

    this is an example of how rational self interest works. Putting a poison in a baby food is not conducive to future profits or employment. So there is no rational self interest at this factory. There doesn’t need to be because there is no free market compelling the factory to provide a good product to it’s customers.

    The only way they can get away with it is by being in bed with government. Thus my desire to see government and business as totally separate entities. K St. needs to go.

  3. Mike,

    Don’t you hear that scrapping spinning noise? I don’t know about your fellows from the 60’s, but I’m pretty sure the Chairman is spinning in his mausoleum.

    Go Team Fasc, er, Communism!

  4. One of the unseen corporate benefits of fascism is that the government looks the other way regarding bad business practice for as long as they can. The tick is not just getting caught, but then getting too much publicity. I would love to have a discussion today with some of the Maoists I knew in the 60’s to see whether their thinking has changed.

  5. And the cost of one human life in China is valued as what? Are they not the one baby nation? And you are either taxed for the extra child or it goes away somehow?

    So what is the loss?

    I am not saying it is right.

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