April 29, 2011 / 8:27 PM / in 9 years

China jails 14 for peddling tainted milk powder

BEIJING (Reuters) - Courts in China have jailed 14 people, two of them for life, for selling milk powder tainted with the industrial chemical melamine, state media reported on Friday.

In 2008, at least six children died and nearly 300,000 fell ill from consuming powdered milk laced with melamine, an industrial chemical added to low quality or diluted milk to fool inspectors checking for protein levels.

Despite large-scale recalls and repeated vows to get tough, authorities continue to uncover cases of melamine in milk powder.

In the latest instances, individuals in the northern provinces of Shanxi and Hebei were found guilty of intentionally adulterating milk powder with melamine and passing it off as having met quality inspections, Xinhua news agency said.

In one case, in Hebei, people sold off tainted milk powder which had originally been seized after the 2008 scandal, simply replacing the packaging, the news agency said.

In another case, at least 130 metric tons of contaminated milk powder had already found its way onto the market before the authorities swooped, Xinhua said.

China’s food sector has been beset by poisonings and toxin scandals that have shaken consumer confidence. Numerous crackdowns have apparently had little effect.

China said in March at least 20 percent of domestic dairy companies would lose their operating licences following inspections of fresh milk and infant formula producers.

Three children died this month after drinking nitrate-laden milk in what police judged an intentional poisoning.

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