Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What The Baby Milk Scandal Says About China

The escalating tainted baby milk scandal is more than a tragedy for China.

Two babies have died, and more than 1,250 have been sickened with kidney stones after drinking formula that had been contaminated with melamine, a chemical banned in the food industry but added to raw milk to boost the appearance of the protein content, Chinese health officials say. Many of the sick infants have mild symptoms, but 53 are said to be in serious condition.

In all, health officials say, 10,000 babies may have consumed the formula, which was distributed mainly in three provinces: Hebei, Jiangsu and Gansu, where the two deaths occurred. A small quantity was also exported to Taiwan.

This is not China's first baby formula scandal in recent years. At least 13 babies in Anhui province died in 2004 after consuming fake formula.

This latest scandal is how long it took the affair to come to light--and the roundabout route by which it did so. It suggests that product safety reforms put in place following a series of scares last year involving toys, toothpaste, food and other dangerous exports took shallow root.

The dairy that sold the formula, Sanlu Group, one of China's largest, received complaints about the tainted milk powder in March (kidney stones are rare in infants) and had confirmed the presence of melamine in some batches early last month. It was the same chemical found in contaminated pet-food exports last year that caused scores of U.S. animals to die. But a product recall for the baby formula didn't start until last week.

Fonterra, a New Zealand farm cooperative that owns a 43% stake in Sanlu Group, says it recommended a recall on Aug. 2. However, neither company executives nor provincial health authorities in Hebei, where Sanlu is headquartered, took any action.

On Monday, Helen Clark, New Zealand's prime minister, said it wasn't until after Fonterra alerted her government, and it in turn contacted Beijing through diplomatic channels, that ministry officials forced Sanlu's hand. "I think the first inclination was to try to put a towel over it and deal with it without an official recall," Clark said on TV New Zealand.

Since the central government stepped in, 19 people have been detained for questioning and four milk brokers have been charged with producing and selling toxic and hazardous food. None are company employees, but Sanlu Group's chairwoman and general manager Tian Wenhua has been fired. She also lost a Party committee post she held in Hebei.

Pointing the finger of blame at milk brokers, who buy from family farmers and sell to agricompanies like Sanlu, underlines a more systemic problem. Latest reports speak of tainted formula being produced by at least 22 companies across China.

A tainted food scare coming just days ahead of the opening of the Beijing Olympic games on Aug. 8, would have been a PR nightmare for the Chinese authorities--and the central government's Propaganda Department had given Chinese media guidance not to report on food safety among several issues for the duration of the game. But the appearance of a cover-up at the local and provincial level now emerging will undermine the extensive work done by central government to clean up China's reputation on product safety.

This has included global recalls of Chinese products, steps to improve oversight and inspection of production facilities and some exemplary punishments. Sanlu Group, as one of the biggest companies in its industry, was expected to act as a role model. It has been ordered to stop production and to destroy more than 10,000 tons of baby formula seized by police in the investigation, according to state media.

More exemplary punishments are likely to come. Sound familiar?

Melamine found in more milk

Baby milk food produced by more companies are contaminated with melamine, a chemical blamed for causing kidney stones in more than 1,250 infants, two of who have died.

Till Monday, only Sanlu products were found with melamine, but tests conducted over the past week showed that 69 of the 491 batches were contaminated, said the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

A woman breastfeeds her child on Tuesday as she waits, along with hundreds of others, as the Sanlu Group headquarters in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, to get a refund fro the milk food she bought. [Agencies]

Which means products of 22 of the 109 milk food firms have failed the AQSIQ tests. All the tainted batches have been recalled and will be destroyed, the AQSIQ said in a report.

Apart from Hebei-based Sanlu Group, the firms whose products are contaminated include such dairy giants as the Yili and Mengniu groups, both based in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and Shanghai-based Bright Dairy.

The AQSIQ report, however, said no contamination was found in samples of milk food exported or supplied (exclusively by Yili) to the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic villages.

The Guangdong-based Yashili Group is the only tainted firm to have exported some products to Bangladesh, Yemen and Myanmar, the report said. But tests on the export batch samples found no melamine.

Ministry warning

The Ministry of Health yesterday warned that the number of ailing infants could rise as the search for victims expands.

And Vice-Minister of Health Ma Xiaowei urged all medical agencies to be prepared to treat babies for kidney stones as more cases are likely to come to light.

Last night, the AQSIQ ordered a thorough investigation into all the tainted firms, and said quality control officers would be sent to all the 1,500 dairy firms in the country to conduct inspections.

All liquid milk packaged after Sept 14 is safe for human consumption, the report said, but it did not give the tests' results before that date.

Sanlu took its first administrative action after the milk food scandal broke out by sacking its board chairman and general manager Tian Wenhua.

The highest concentration of melamine was found in Sanlu products. Tests show every kg of Sanlu milk food contains 2.56 g of melamine, which can make milk appear rich in protein in quality tests. The chemical is usually used to make plates, bowls, mugs and sundry other products, but is banned from being used in the food industry.

The other tainted products contain between 0.09 mg to 619 mg of melamine per kg.

Two more arrested

Two more milk dealers were arrested in Hebei late on Monday for allegedly adulterating the products they sold to Sanlu to earn more money, taking the total arrest to four.

Twenty-two others have been detained for their alleged involvement in the scandal, Shi Guizhong, a spokesman for Hebei provincial public security bureau, said.

The newly arrested dealers, both in the early 40s, were identified just as Ma and Zhao.

Ma, a resident of Luquan city, ran a farm in his hometown where some 400 cows gave about 3 tons of milk every day. Last November, Ma bought about 200 kg of melamine, which he used to mix with the fresh milk to artificially raise its "protein" content. Police have seized about 15 kg of melamine from his house.

Zhao, a native of Jinzhou city, worked as manager of a cattle-breeding farm in Dahe township of Luquan. Police said he bought four bags of melamine, 80 kg in total, to mix it with milk.

The Centre for Food Safety (FSC) of Hong Kong Tuesday said melamine had been found in an Yili ice bar sample in the special administrative region.

After testing 27 ice cream and milk samples, the FSC found a Shanghai-manufactured Yili product "Natural Choice Yogurt Flavored Ice Bar with Real Fruit" (90ml) to be contaminated with 15 ppm of melamine. Fifteen ppm means 15 mg in a kg.

"It will not cause huge health risk under normal consumption," a spokesman for the FSC said.

Chen Junshi, a senior researcher with the National Institute for Nutrition and Food Safety, said the tests show it has been a common practice in the industry to mix melamine with dairy products.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

How to Add Custom Decals to a Car

Adding custom decals to your car is the cheapest way to give your exterior a very unique look. It is not as permanent or complicated as a new paint job and can be done at home in about an hour.

Wash and wax the car, then let it dry completely.

Plan out exactly where you wish to apply your custom decals on your car.

Recruit a friend or family member to help you.

Use scotch tape to place the decal approximately where you want it. This is where a helper comes in handy because car decals are usually very large and difficult to line up.

Peel off the backing on one side of the decal and being slowly sticking it to the car. Leave all of the backing on except for right where you are working.

Ask your friend to help you make sure the decal is going on straight as you slowly continue to apply it.

Place the decal directly over any cuts in the body, like door lines. Ignore them for now.

Cut the stickers at these body lines and wrap the loose part around the edges on the body line or frame.

Scrape lightly with a plastic spatula to press the bubbles out of the decal.

Remove any excess scotch tape.

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