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Cadbury withdraws China chocolate on Melamine concern

HONG KONG/LONDON (Reuters) - Confectionery group Cadbury said on Monday it was withdrawing all of its 11 chocolate products made in Beijing on concern over the possibility of contamination with melamine in its Chinese plant.

The London-based group said its products, including Dairy Milk chocolate, were being recalled from mainland China and the export markets of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia as a precautionary step pending further supply of fresh product.

A growing list of Chinese milk and milk-related products have been taken off shelves around the world in recent weeks after it came to light that some milk had been contaminated with melamine which led to thousands affected and four deaths.

Melamine is a relatively cheap industrial chemical that can be used to cheat protein quality checks in milk and a week ago the Chinese health ministry said 104 people were seriously ill and close to 40,000 others were affected by contaminated milk.

“The withdrawal is due to concern about the possibility of melamine contamination in our chocolate,” said a Cadbury spokesman based at its London headquarters.

Last week Cadbury said three factories from which it sources its dairy ingredient supplies in China had been tested by the government and no melamine had been found, but further tests had revealed some doubts so the recall was ordered.

“We believe it is appropriate to take a precautionary step to withdraw from the market all of our Cadbury chocolate products that have been manufactured in Beijing, pending further supply of fresh product,” the group said in a statement.

Cadbury shares were off 0.9 percent at 577 pence by 0950 GMT in a London stock market down 2.7 percent.

The products include a range of Cadbury’s chocolate lines and Choclairs made in Beijing, although only one line - Cadbury Eclairs - was sold in Australia. Cadbury’s Chinese business is small with sales of less than 0.5 percent of group revenue.

A year ago Cadbury was fined 1 million pounds for selling unsafe chocolates in Britain and Ireland during a salmonella health scare which left a number of people ill.

In Hong Kong the government’s Centre for Food Safety (CFS) appealed to the public to stop eating the chocolates concerned and said its laboratories would check the products for melamine.

“We would alert the trade to stop selling the affected products. The Centre would test the related products. We are closely monitoring the situation,” the CFS said.

Among other western food groups with operations in China, the world’s biggest food group Nestle and France’s Danone said all their products have been cleared by Chinese authorities, while Unilever Plc/NV said all its milk powder for its Chinese Walls ice cream operation was sourced outside China.

Reporting by David Jones and Tan Ee Lyn; Editing by Keiron Henderson, Greg Mahlich