EU Proposes Chinese Baby Food Ban

European Union's headquarters called for tighter checks on Chinese products in the wake of the health scare involving milk products tainted with an industrial chemical.

BEIJING (AP) -- Two U.N. agencies on Thursday called China's contaminated milk crisis deplorable as the scandal spread further with the European Commission proposing a ban on any baby food products from China that contain traces of milk.

The European Union's headquarters also called for tighter checks on other Chinese food products in the wake of the health scare involving milk products tainted with an industrial chemical.

All imports of Chinese products containing more than 50 percent milk powder will have to be tested under the new rules due to come into force Friday after talks among the EU's 27 member nations.

EU food safety experts said they have found only a limited risk in Europe from food imports from China, but the European Commission says it is acting as a precaution in the face of the growing scandal.

The World Health Organization and UNICEF, the U.N. Children's Fund, issued a joint statement Thursday expressing concern about the widening crisis .

"Whilst any attempt to deceive the public in the area of food production and marketing is unacceptable, deliberate contamination of foods intended for consumption by vulnerable infants and young children is particularly deplorable," the statement said.

It added the agencies were confident China's food safety authorities were investigating this incident fully.

"We also expect that following the investigation and in the context of the Chinese government's increasing attention to food safety, better regulation of foods for infants and young children will be enforced," it said.

The rest of the statement called for more awareness of the benefits of breast-feeding. That has become less common in recent years in China as busy mothers switch to powdered baby formula.

Chinese baby formula tainted with melamine has been blamed for sickening 54,000 infants in China and for the deaths of four babies. Health experts say ingesting a small amount of the chemical poses no danger, but melamine can cause kidney stones and lead to kidney failure. Infants are particularly vulnerable.

Melamine-tainted products have also turned up in an increasing number of Chinese-made exports abroad -- from candies to yogurt to rice balls.

In China, the problem has spread to a popular brand of candy, with authorities pulling White Rabbit candy from shelves in Shanghai and the southern province of Hainan.

White Rabbit, which has been recalled already in Singapore and Britain, was found to contain "unsatisfactory" levels of melamine -- more than six times the legal limit -- in a test of 67 dairy products, according to the Hong Kong government's Center for Food Safety.

The candy is still on sale in some stores in Beijing, and there has been no public announcement of a nationwide recall from China's safety watchdog. A woman who works at the propaganda department of the quality body, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said that she did not know of White Rabbit candy being recalled in China. She did not give her name, as is common with officials in China.

The watchdog issued a recall list on Sept. 16 for 69 batches of milk powder made by 22 companies. The only other recall list was on Sept. 19 for liquid milk.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said China would like to work with food safety authorities of other countries over concerns about China's dairy products.

China's state broadcaster CCTV said Thursday there have been no positive tests for melamine on major brands of milk, yoghurt and other liquid dairy products after Sept. 14.

The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture said that 29 provincial areas nationwide had set up special working groups to regulate the dairy product market.

The Shanghai government has urged a subsidiary of Bright Food Group to stop the sales of White Rabbit candy -- one of the best-known candies in China -- and pull them off the shelves, and to recall those for export that are likely to have problems, it said.

The subsidiary, Guan Sheng Yuan, has been making White Rabbit candies for almost 50 years, with exports to Southeast Asia and Chinese communities overseas.

"The inspection is ongoing and we are waiting for the results," Xu Yongxin, a public affairs official for Bright Food Group Co, which makes the candy, said by phone Thursday.

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