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US Withdraws Milk Powder with Excessive Nitrite
A milk powder product has been withdrawn from the Chinese market after an "unacceptable level of nitrite" was detected in its contents, which some experts believe could be detrimental to consumers' health.

The product - a "Promise"-brand milk powder with serial number 1S192 - is produced by US-headquartered nutritional products maker Wyeth-Ayerst (China) Ltd.

"We have taken back a batch of 'Promise'-brand milk powder from retailers," said Zhao Xuejun, a spokesman for Wyeth-Ayerst (China) Ltd in Shanghai. "We will also refund consumers or substitute similar products for them."

The Beijing quarantine authorities Monday confirmed it destroyed 1,200 cans - 480 kilograms - of the brand last month.

The content of nitrite in the powder was tested to be 6.06 mg/kg, more than three times as much as China's allowable level, according to an official at the Beijing Administration for Exit-Entry Inspection and Quarantine, who declined to be identified.

However, Ding Zongyi, a senior professor at the Beijing Children's Hospital, said nitrite in food cannot cause tumors or cancer, as hyped by some media.

The milk powder was produced in October in an Irish factory affiliated to Wyeth. The product was launched in 1999 for pre-school age children, according to Zhao.

None of the powder milk was delivered to regions outside the Chinese mainland, he said.

The spokesman said it was the first time the Wyeth product was found to contain such an excessive amount of nitrite, and that was caused "accidentally" in the course of processing in Ireland.

Following the scare, Wyeth-Ayerst (China) Ltd has intensified its examination of the quality of its milk powder products bound for China, he said.

(China Daily May 21, 2002)

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