Friday, September 26, 2008

Have you eaten Chinese sweets lately?

By Clayton Barnes

The City of Cape Town's health directorate has launched an urgent investigation to establish whether White Rabbit sweets, which are available in Cape Town and have been recalled in several countries amid fears of milk contamination, contain a toxic substance.

This follows an instruction by the department of health to health directorates and food industry bodies across the country to detain all dairy products imported from China.

The milk-flavoured sweets, which are exported from China to about 40 countries around the world, are available at Chinese restaurants and in supermarkets across South Africa.

City health director Dr Ivan Bromfield said his department was liaising with the national Health Department and would launch an investigation today into allegations the sweets contained the chemical melamine.

"We are unaware and cannot confirm that these sweets are toxic, but our food control officials are investigating."

Milk powder contaminated with melamine has led to nearly 13 000 infants being admitted to hospital in China over the past few weeks. More than 100 babies were in a serious condition and four have already died.

More than 54 000 children in China were reported to have fallen sick after drinking contaminated milk powder.

However, Bromfield said no milk products sold in Cape Town or elsewhere in the country were affected by the toxic milk crisis gripping China.

"We have been in correspondence with the department of health on that issue and South Africa is in no threat," he said.

National director of food control Andries Pretorius confirmed that the department was working with provincial departments and municipalities as well as industry to have all Chinese dairy products and ingredients detained.

"I want to make it clear that the products are not being recalled, just detained until we verify whether it contaminated or not," said Pretorius.

"There is no real threat, we just want to make sure we are safe."

Experts say the ingestion of melamine can cause kidney stones, kidney failure, irritation of the eyes and skin and urinary tract ulcers.

Melamine, which is usually used in wood adhesives, laminates and flame retardants, was apparently added to the milk to fool quality checks that measure the protein content of milk.

The two brothers responsible for selling the tainted milk were arrested in China last week and may face execution if they are convicted.

Nestle South Africa spokesperson Nikhil Bramdaw assured consumers that the company's products here and abroad were "100 percent safe".

source: Have you eaten Chinese sweets lately?
Independent Online, South Africa