BEIJING (AP) -- Authorities in China have detained dozens of people and confiscated huge caches of dangerous milk powder in the latest bid to root out the melamine-tainted dairy that killed six children and sickened hundreds of thousands in 2008, state media reported Thursday.
Launched in July, the crackdown shows China's dairy industry remains stubbornly contaminated. Partly to blame are incompetent product safety officials who have failed to do their jobs, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Over the last six months, authorities have detained 96 people for violations linked to melamine-tainted milk and confiscated about 2,132 tons of tainted milk powder, Xinhua reported, citing a report by the Food Safety Commission of China's cabinet, the State Council.
Xinhua said the seized powder wasn't newly manufactured but leftover from 2008 or earlier. China ordered all contaminated dairy, including infant formula, yogurt and other products, burned or buried, but the government did not carry out the destruction itself. Some people have apparently saved the tainted products.
In the 2008 scandal, some profit-hungry dairy farmers, middle men and distributors were accused of adding melamine to watered-down milk to make it appear to still be rich in protein in quality tests that measure nitrogen, found in both the melamine and protein. Health problems from the chemical include kidney stones and kidney damage.
Seventeen of the 96 detained since July have already been convicted, Xinhua said, including two sentenced to life in prison. Details of their cases weren't provided. The rest were either awaiting trial or under investigation while still in police custody.
Xinhua said the government had found loopholes in the country's quality control system that were allowing the products slip though, but didn't say what they were. It said 191 product safety officials had been punished for failing to do their jobs.