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Foreign claimants to get help in milk scandal
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China will help foreign companies seeking compensation from exporters of milk products tainted with the industrial chemical melamine, a senior health official said in Manila on Friday.

Liu Qian, deputy health minister, said claims should first be resolved on a business-to-business level, but China was ready to provide assistance through diplomatic channels if claimants encounter problems.

"The Chinese government will provide all necessary assistance," he said at a news conference following a meeting with Asian health ministers. "We're going to urge all our problematic companies to follow market rules and legal procedures to solve this problem."

He said China introduced stringent measures to screen and recall all tainted milk products so "all the milk on the market is safe".

His assurance came as the State Council published a series of quality control regulations for dairy products on Thursday.

The regulations tighten quality controls on every aspect of dairy food production, including breeding of cows, purchasing and transportation of raw milk, and production and sales.

The regulations come into effect as the central government said dairy production and circulation was "chaotic" and supervision was "gravely absent". They provide legal backup for a complete overhaul and recovery of the industry, the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, which drafted the regulations, said on Friday.

The regulations state that:

Any non-food chemicals or hazardous substances are prohibited from being added to raw milk.

Quality supervisors must conduct regular inspections of dairy products. Law-breakers will be blacklisted and named.

Dairy product producers or sellers should recall and destroy tainted products immediately after they find the products are substandard.

The new regulations pledge more severe punishment for people violating safety standards, and quality control officials who fail to fulfill their duties.

Dairy producers or sellers would be fined up to 30 times of the sales value of the products if they fail to recall or stop selling the tainted products, and their operation license will be revoked, the regulations stipulate.

Related officials, including inspectors, will also be punished if dairy food safety incidents occur.

Companies are also required to halt production immediately if the products are found to be tainted, report to inspectors, notify salespersons and consumers, and recall the products, said the regulations.

(Agencies via China Daily, October 11, 2008)

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