Monday, September 22, 2008

WHO: China taking right direction in handling dairy contamination issue

China is taking the right direction in dealing with the milk products contamination cases and the information is currently shared in time with the World Health Organization , a senior WHO official said Sunday.

Dr. Shigeru Omi, director of the WHO Western Pacific regional office, told a press conference that China is now taking the issue "seriously" and has launched very intensive investigations.

"After acknowledging the problems, the Chinese government is very serious about the matter and I hope the situation would be put under control as soon as possible," Omi said, lauding government efforts to recall suspected problematic products, strength inspection and monitoring, and conduct a serious probe into the cause of what he described as "a serious public health issue."

He said the WHO is assisting China in probing the scandal but did not conduct independent investigations as he said he believed the Chinese investigation results will show the world the whole picture of what was happening and how things developed.

He said globalization makes the scandal concern not just China but the world at large. "Every country is vulnerable, every country can be affected, so all the international community should work together to solve the problem," Omi said.

Omi said challenges are coming from local governments and small firms. "There is large room for improvement on quality control, more investments are needed at the lower level, and serious commitment should come from the private sector."

The dairy scandal broke out recently as 6,244 infants fell ill after consuming tainted baby formula of Sanlu Group, a well known and widely bought brand in China. More than 150 babies were diagnosed with acute kidney failure. Four of them have died.

Melamine, a toxic chemical rich in nitrogen, is believed to have been added in the formula to boost the protein level of the watered down milk. Protein test is required in China before any dairy product reaches the market.

Anothony Hazzard, a food safety specialist at WHO Western Pacific regional office, said that according to the requirement of China, the WHO is conducting research on poison of melamine. He added that what the WHO's doing right now is to immediately share the latest information with all of its member states and warn the risks and it's up to each member state to decide on respective actions.

Source: Xinhua

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