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Dec 29 (Reuters) - The website of China Mengniu Dairy Co Ltd was hacked on Wednesday night after the country’s biggest dairy operator admitted some of its milk products contained a cancer-causing substance, Chinese media reported.
A one-page message left by a hacker named “Angry Ms.SIT” appeared on Mengniu’s website, calling the company “a disgrace to our nation,” according to screenshots displayed on several Chinese news sites including Sina News and the website of the official People’s Daily.
The message appeared on Mengniu’s website on Wednesday before midnight, the People’s Daily reported. The message has since been removed, but the Mengniu website, www.mengniu.com.cn, could not be accessed on Thursday morning.
Mengniu officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Last weekend, Mengniu said its Sichuan plant had destroyed products found by a government quality watchdog to contain aflatoxin, which can cause severe liver damage, including liver cancer. In a Tuesday statement, it added the incident was caused by moldy fodder fed to milk cows in a dairy farm.
Aflatoxin occurs naturally in the environment and is produced by certain common types of fungi, which grow when there is enough moisture and temperatures are right. These fungi and the aflatoxin they produce can infect crops before harvest or during harvesting and storage. The tainted crops then enter the foodchain either directly, or indirectly via animal feed.
Milk, eggs, and meat can sometimes be contaminated with aflatoxins after animal consumption of aflatoxin-tainted feed.
Separately, food safety officials recalled on Thursday cooking oil produced by three companies in southern Guandong province because they may contain excessive levels of aflatoxin, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported. It was not immediately clear how the toxin may have entered the cooking oil.
These incidents are the latest in a string of safety scandals to hit China’s food industry in recent years.
In 2008, at least six children died and nearly 300,000 became ill in China from drinking powdered milk laced with melamine, an industrial chemical added to low-quality or diluted milk to give misleadingly high protein readings.
The latest Mengniu scandal triggered a consumer backlash on Wednesday on microblogging site Sina Weibo, where Mengniu’s name became the most searched item and calls for a boycott of Mengniu products were shared by tens of thousands of Weibo users.
Shares of Mengniu Dairy were down 5.4 percent by early afternoon on Thursday, extending the previous session’s 24 percent fall. (Reporting By Sisi Tang and Tan Ee Lyn in HONG KONG; Editing by Charlie Zhu and Matt Driskill)