Ministry of Trade and Industry recalls Chinese infant milk powder [Archives:2008/1192/Front Page]

September 22 2008

SANA'A, Sept. 21) The Yemeni Ministry of Trade and Industry on Thursday ordered the Yemeni agent who had imported Chinese dairy products into the country to recall all infant milk powder from the Yemeni market.

Four babies have died and up to 6,244 are ill with 158 suffering from acute kidney failure in mainland China, after drinking a baby powder formula contaminated with an industrial chemical also found in some popular brands of liquid milk, yoghurt and ice cream.

The Yemeni ministry confirmed that the quantity of imported milk is limited and that there are no more than two thousand cartons of imported milk on the Yemeni market, based on the report provided by the Yemeni agent.

The ministry also ordered its field monitoring and examination teams, as well as the Standardization Metrology and Quality Control Organization, to conduct a widespread check of the company's dairy products and to recall tainted items.

Yemeni Health Minister Dr. Abdul Karim Rasa'a pointed to the international warnings issued after the Chinese government admitted that babies had developed kidney stones and complications after drinking milk made from powder tainted with melamine, an industrial chemical used in plastics and fertilizers that can cause kidney stones and lead to kidney failure.

The Yemeni Ministry of Health has not announced any related case so far, but the Minister of Health confirmed that his ministry had issued letters to medical facilities to monitor and report any cases.

Chinese dairy companies Yashili and Suncare have ordered the recall of tainted milk powder exported to Bangladesh, Burundi, Gabon, Myanmar and Yemen. Brunei, Malaysia and Bangladesh have halted imports of Chinese milk products following a similar move by Singapore earlier this week.

The European Union demanded an account of what had gone wrong.

China said nearly 10 percent of milk and drinking yoghurt samples from the two major dairy companies Yashili and Suncare contained melamine. This substance was also found in several samples of dairy products from the Chinese Bright Dairy group, according to Chinese media.

Melamine added to milk and other food products gives the appearance of higher protein content. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), melamine is most commonly found in the form of white crystals, can cause kidney stones when consumed, and potentially stops the production of urine, which could lead to kidney failure and, in some cases, death.

The UN health agency has taken action in disseminating information on the situation to its member states through the International Food Safety Authorities Network (IFOSAN).

The WHO said it remains in close communication with the Chinese Ministry of Health to monitor the situation and assist with information dissemination.

Last year a range of pet food manufactured in China and exported to the US was similarly melamine-contaminated, and caused the death of a large number of cats and dogs due to kidney failure.