9 Jan 2009

China plans melamine production controls

6:27 pm on 9 January 2009

China plans to impose production controls on melamine, the cheap industrial ingredient at the centre of a milk tainting scandal, a newspaper in China has reported.

At least six Chinese children died from kidney stones and more than 290,000 were made ill from melamine-contaminated milk formula.

The company at the heart of the scandal, the now bankrupt Sanlu Group, is 43% owned by New Zealand dairy company Fonterra.

China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has circulated for comment draft production permit rules aiming to stem a melamine production glut and stop it from tainting food, the China Chemical Industry News reported.

Melamine is used to maker fertilisers, plastics and other industrial goods but gained notoriety as a cheap additive for milk and other foods. Rich in nitrogen, melamine can be used to fool tests for protein.

Until recently, melamine has been widely sold, including over the Internet, for around 10,000 yuan a metric tonne. It has also been detected in eggs, chocolates and other foods.

The ministry also aims to reduce the number of melamine producers by setting minimum production levels and strengthening controls on ingredients and waste.

Former Sanlu general manager Tian Wenhua has pleaded guilty to charges of producing and selling fake or substandard products. She is expected to be sentenced to life imprisonment.