Thai Importer Returning Tainted Milk Powder

Dairy producer plans to return 122 tons of imported powdered milk to China even before tests have determined whether they are contaminated with the banned chemical melamine.

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- A Thai dairy producer said Thursday it plans to return 122 tons of newly imported powdered milk to China even before tests have determined whether they are contaminated with the banned chemical melamine.

Thailand's Food and Drug Administration has been impounding newly imported milk powder from China at ports around the country, pending laboratory analysis.

Milk tainted with melamine has been blamed for killing four Chinese babies and sickening more than 50,000 others, sparking global concerns about food products made with Chinese milk or milk powder.

The scandal has sparked global concern about Chinese food imports and recalls of Chinese-made products including milk powders, biscuits and candies across the globe.

Chinese authorities believe suppliers trying to boost output diluted their milk, adding melamine because its nitrogen content can fool tests aimed at verifying protein content.

"We want to return it to make sure our products are safe for our customers," said Thirayuth Chaisawangwong, president of the Dutch Mill Group.

He said test results were expected by the end of the week, "but we don't want to take any risk even if the test is negative."

The Thai drug agency said it has been testing nearly 100 imports from China for possible melamine contamination.

Earlier this week, it found small traces of melamine in milk powder imported by Dutch Mill in two different samples of Shuangwa Full Cream Milk Powder, but Manit Arunakoon, the agency's deputy secretary-general said the levels of melamine found were legally acceptable for human consumption.

Also Thursday, Taiwan's health minister ordered the withdrawal of milk powders produced in China by the European food giant Nestle after tests turned up small doses of melamine.

Minister Yeh Ching-chuan said milk powders produced by Nestle in the Heilongjiang Province contained doses too small to affect human health, but that they were being recalled anyway.

Liang Chia-jui, a spokesman for the Swiss-based multinational in Taipei, insisted the milk powders are safe, but that the company had agreed to the recall.

Experts say melamine, which is used to make plastics and fertilizers, may be transferred in tiny quantities from the environment during food processing and some governments consider small trace quantities safe for consumption.

Yeh said Taiwan will confer with international food safety experts and the World Health Organization to decide on whether to permit milk products containing traces of the chemical.

So far, more than 160 products containing Chinese milk and vegetable-based proteins have been removed from stores in Taiwan.

On Thursday, the China's food safety administration said its latest tests found products from 65 different companies to be free from melamine contamination. A day earlier, tests found 15 companies were using contaminated milk in their products.

In Austria, health authorities said Thursday they detected a non-threatening amount of melamine in a milkshake at a Chinese restaurant in Graz. The milkshake had not been sold to a customers, and no one was sickened by it, authorities said.

Officials in the United States on Wednesday reported finding tainted White Rabbit candies for sale at Asian food markets in the state of New Jersey, after finding them earlier in California and Hawaii. Officials in Germany said they had discovered them for sale in the southern state of Baden Wuerttemburg.

The European Union last week banned imports of baby food containing Chinese milk.

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