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11 December 2023

China probes safety of Danone products

A Chinese woman looks at the milk products on sale at a supermarket in Hangzhou. (AP)

Chinese authorities are investigating whether Danone Dumex, the powdered-milk unit of France's Danone Group, had produced milk powder contaminated with a harmful chemical, state media said Wednesday.

The report follows a massive scandal in China in which milk supplies contaminated with melamine were blamed for killing six infants and sickening nearly 300,000. Xinhua news agency said the probe by Shanghai authorities came after recent media reports in China that some infants here had fallen ill after consuming melamine-tainted Dumex products.

Danone Dumex issued a statement on its Chinese website that called the reports of tainted milk powder false and said all its products were safe. "We guarantee to all consumers that all Dumex products made in China are safe," it said, adding that rigorous tests had confirmed its assertion. The Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision were investigating the safety of Dumex milk powder produced before September 14, Xinhua said.

That was around the time that Chinese media first revealed that melamine had been found in a wide range of Chinese-made milk products. Melamine, an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of plastics, was mixed into watered-down milk to give it the appearance of higher protein levels. It caused kidney and urinary tract problems in children who consumed it.

Xinhua said the Shanghai authorities were instructed to investigate Dumex by the country's top product-quality watchdog. Calls to the Shanghai bureau went unanswered Wednesday.

Three people have been sentenced to death in China for their involvement in the melamine contamination, while the head of a major milk firm was sentenced to life in prison.