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2008年9月24日 (水)


(Sep. 24, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun

Tighten inspections on China-made food

メラミン牛乳 中国産食品の検疫を厳格に(924日付・読売社説)

It is hard to believe that a mildly toxic chemical could get mixed in with milk. But this is exactly what happened in yet another food scandal in China.


Several babies died, and tens of thousands of children reportedly have been sickened in the country, after consuming powdered milk tainted with melamine.


Adding melamine to milk can make it appear to be richer in protein, and Chinese dairy producers allegedly "supplemented" protein levels in milk by adding melamine to it after the milk was diluted with water.


This latest tainted food scandal has not been confined to China's shores.


Although barely any fresh milk or other dairy products are imported from China, a substantial volume of processed foods made using Chinese milk already have entered the Japanese market.


Marudai Food Co., a leading manufacturer of ham and sausages based in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, voluntarily announced Saturday that some of its products contained milk contaminated with melamine, and started recalling items already on the market.


According to the company, the amount of tainted milk used in the products was extremely small, and so far there have not been any reports of people being sickened after consuming them. It does not appear the widespread health problems in China will be replicated in Japan.


However, concerns among consumers will continue to grow as long as they are not able to distinguish between products that contain milk tainted with the chemical and those that do not.



Time to tighten up checks

It is important that all of the concerned food production companies quickly grasp what is going on and announce the results of these investigations as soon as possible.


It also is necessary to review the way in which imported foods are dealt with at quarantine stations. At present, inspectors look only for pesticide residues and bacteria, not chemical contamination.


Many cats and dogs died last year in the United States after eating pet food containing ingredients made in China. The culprit was found to be melamine. Yet Japanese quarantine authorities have not added melamine to their list of substances to be inspected for. This relaxed attitude toward potential chemical contamination must be abandoned and the possibility of such contamination must be assumed when checking imported foods.



China withholding information?

The latest food contamination scandal only surfaced after the Beijing Olympics had finished. Suspicions have been raised that the Chinese government might have suppressed revelations about the damage done, even though the effects were known about for quite some time, out of concern over the possible impact the scandal might have had on the Games.


The World Health Organization also said somebody obviously withheld information on the scandal. It is interesting to note that a major dairy products manufacturer that sold milk powder containing melamine was one of the sponsors of the Beijing Olympics.


In addition, the truth about the problem of tainted Chinese-made frozen gyoza in Japan has not yet been clarified. The government should urge China more strongly to improve the safety of Chinese-made foods and to disclose information on food contamination quickly.


Meanwhile, a series of food safety scandals also have been occurring in Japan, including pesticide- and mold-tainted rice designated by the government as suitable only for industrial use being sold for human consumption.


Concerned ministries, agencies and the food industry must thoroughly investigate these problems originating in our own country. Failure to do so will undermine Japan's ability to blame China for shortcomings on food safety.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 24, 2008)

20089240211  読売新聞)


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