Thailand tightens China dairy import restrictions

BANGKOK Tue Sep 30, 2008 5:07am EDT

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand is tightening restrictions on dairy products from China after finding two samples of milk powder contaminated with melamine, Deputy Health Minister Wicharn Meechainant said on Tuesday.

"We will issue a new ministerial regulation very soon that milk imported from China must be checked more thoroughly," he told reporters.

Thousands of children in China have been hospitalized with kidney illnesses and four have died after drinking milk formula tainted with the chemical, causing public outrage and shining a spotlight on food safety after a series of problems with other products.

Sixty tonnes of milk powder imported from China were impounded on Monday after Thai Food and Drug Administration inspectors found melamine traces, Wicharn said, without revealing the level of melamine concentration.

The chemical, which can be used to artificially boost the level of nitrogen in dairy products, was also found in another shipment of 20 tonnes of Chinese milk products.

However, in the latter case, levels of the chemical were found to be 0.35-0.55 milligrams per kg, below an acceptable standard of 1 milligram per kg, Wicharn said.

Melamine can be added to substandard or watered-down milk to fool quality checks, which often use nitrogen levels to measure the amount of protein in milk. The chemical is used in pesticides and in making plastics.

(Reporting by Chalathip Thirasoontrakul; Editing by Ed Cropley and David Fogarty)

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