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Dairy sector regulation beefed up
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A draft regulation to raise standards and improve supervision of domestic dairy products was approved in principle by the Cabinet Monday amid a nationwide milk contamination scandal.

"The recent safety issue of dairy products, triggered by the Sanlu infant formula incident, shows the country is still weak in the production supervision process," said Premier Wen Jiabao, who presided over the executive meeting of the State Council.

"We must learn from it and control the whole process from the farm to the dining table."

The regulation details the supervision of the entire dairy chain, from raising cows, the collection and purchase of raw milk, and the production and sale of dairy products to their export and import.

It also clarifies the responsibilities of government agencies, and stipulates punishment for negligent inspectors and those who add toxic materials to dairy products or violate production safety rules.

The regulation comes 25 days after the media reported that infant formula produced by Sanlu Group contained melamine, a chemical often used in plastics but banned in food. It can make milk products appear high in protein during quality tests, but causes kidney problems if consumed.

Testing was soon broadened to all dairy products on the market, as melamine was also found in adult milk powder, liquid milk and yogurt.

The chemical has so far been blamed for the deaths of four babies and the illness of more than 50,000 children.

The meeting concluded that the contamination issue, which "greatly harms the health of babies and ruins the reputation of the country's dairy business, and even the entire food industry", arose because some unscrupulous individuals and companies pursued illegal profits by making toxic dairy products.

The situation reflects that the production and distribution of dairy products were in chaos, and without any proper supervision, the meeting said.

To restore public trust in domestic dairy products, the State Council Monday decided that:

Governments should continue to offer free treatment for affected babies, and search for more infants fed tainted milk food across rural and remote areas.

Enterprises that produce substandard products or have incomplete quality assurance systems must stop production and make amends; and unlicensed factories must be closed.

Stations collecting raw milk must be regulated.

Supporting policies and subsidies should be made available for dairy farmers at major dairy-producing regions; and the entire industry should be upgraded.

(China Daily October 7, 2008)

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