Sanlu brand liquid milk is back on the Chinese market in a limited way after two months, having been removed after its melamine-tainted powdered milk sickened thousands of babies nationwide.
Fresh milk produced by one of Sanlu Group's affiliated dairy plants in Xingtai City in the southern part of Hebei Province made a low-key comeback on Nov. 1 and has since been sold in Hebei, Henan and Shandong provinces, company sources confirmed on Thursday.
However, a spokesman with parent company Sanlu Group said on Thursday he was not aware of the comeback. Nor is the group ready to reestablish its brand anytime soon, he said on condition of anonymity.
Sanlu Group holds 34 percent of the shares of Xingtai Sanlu, which mainly produces fresh milk and yogurt.
Daily sales now average 50 tonnes, less than 20 percent of pre-scandal sales, said Cao Zhanwu, marketing director of Xingtai Sanlu Dairies Co. Ltd.
"The melamine contamination scandal was a deadly blow to the entire group," he said. "We repent our mistake but won't give up."
A dairy sales outlet on Gexin Road in downtown Shijiazhuang, Hebei's provincial capital, sells about 500 packs of Sanlu's fresh milk daily, said the store keeper.
Though some shoppers are dubious, many others expressed confidence in the Sanlu brand.
"I'm sure the company has tightened quality control after the scandal," said a housewife who only gave her surname of Jin as she bought five packs of Sanlu milk. "Besides, I don't think anyone -- producers or dealers -- dare use melamine in milk again now that everyone is watchful."
Shijiazhuang-based Sanlu was at the heart of a tainted milk scandal that surfaced in September.
Sanlu products were found to contain melamine, which was being used to increase the apparent protein content in milk. The use of the industrial chemical is restricted in food.
Children can develop kidney stones after drinking melamine-contaminated milk. The Ministry of Health said on Wednesday that 1,272 infants nationwide were still receiving treatment for kidney disorders caused by tainted powdered milk, and two were in serious condition.
The Xingtai company is currently the only dairy firm to continue using Sanlu's name. Seven Sanlu-affiliated factories in Shijiazhuang have also resumed production, mostly fresh milk and yogurt under the names of Wahaha and Feihe, Shijiazhuang's vice mayor Li Jinlu said last week.
The Shijiazhuang government has set up a restructuring team headed by a vice-mayor to talk with major players interested in buying Sanlu -- Wandashan and Sanyuan.
Sanlu is one of the largest companies in Shijiazhuang, employing almost 10,000 people.
(Xinhua News Agency November 13, 2008)