December 10, 2009 / 1:28 PM / 10 years ago

China detains three in new toxic milk scare

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have detained three people suspected of selling milk powder tainted with melamine, state media said on Thursday, the industrial chemical involved in a massive toxic food scandal last year.

The three were detained in northwestern Shaanxi province on December 2, before tainted goods reached stores, the official Xinhua news agency said.

It named the three as Liu Ping, general manager of Shaanxi Jinqiao Diary Company, and two of the firm’s employees and said they were detained for “the suspected crime of producing and selling toxic food.”

The report, citing police, said they sold 5.25 tons of melamine-laced milk powder to Nanning Yueqian Food Additive Company, based in the southern region of Guangxi.

The powder was seized on November 18, so did not make its way into the market, Xinhua added.

China executed two people last month for their role in a huge melamine-tainted milk scandal that killed at least six children and further sullied the made-in-China brand.

Nearly 300,000 children fell ill in that scandal last year after drinking milk intentionally laced with melamine, a toxic industrial compound that can give a fake positive on protein tests, sold mainly in that case by the now bankrupt Sanlu Group.

The case was the latest in a string of food safety failures, but the Sanlu milk scandal was also one of the worst and prompted an outpouring of public anger.

Melamine, which can cause kidney stones, is meant to be used in making plastics, fertilizers and even concrete. Its high nitrogen content allows protein levels to appear higher when it is added to milk or animal feed.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait

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