China has called for a crackdown on the production and marketing of melamine in a bid to halt its use in the adulteration of food products.
The Government has also urged the introduction of a traceability register for the chemical. Under the proposal, the real-name catalogue would allow all consignments of the industrial substance to be traced in the market from the wholesalers to retailers.
The notice, issued by General Office of the State Council on Saturday, said dairy companies should carry out safety tests on all products before releasing them onto the market. Food retailers should also conduct analyses on dairy products and maintain detailed records of their test results, added the document.
Administrative agencies were also charged with beefing up their scrutiny of dairy production. Officials should be installed as resident in-situ inspectors in plants to ensure that regulations handed down from Beijing are properly enforced.
The proposal, if implemented would amount to a large-scale clampdown on the production and distribution of the industrial chemical which is believed to be routinely added to some food and animal feed products.
In 2008, some 300,000 children were sickened and seven died after the melamine was found to have been systematically added to powdered milk for infants. The substance was added to the powder after manufacturers diluted milk with water as it can cause the protein content of a food to appear higher than it actually is. The scandal caused shockwaves around the world and seriously tarnished China’s food safety reputation. Three people were executed over the affair in January 2009. The fall-out is still being felt after the discovery earlier this month of tonnes more melamine-tainted milk powder led to further arrests.
Two weeks ago, the Government released a separate notice calling on judges to use their powers to the maximum to punish food safety breaches – including the death penalty.
"Those deserving death penalties should be resolutely sentenced to death," said Xinhua quoting from the official notice, which was jointly issued with The Supreme Court, the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme People's Procuratorate.