China to tighten control of animal feed industry
China has pledged to tighten supervision of the animal feed industry, state media said Saturday, amid signs that a toxic chemical found in milk and eggs was being mixed into livestock feed.
"The ministry will tighten its supervision of the feed industry and crack down on producers who add melamine to their products," the China Daily quoted Wang Zhicai, head of the Agriculture Ministry's livestock division as saying.
Melamine, an industrial chemical normally used to make plastic, was first found to have been added to milk in China, leading to the death of four infants and sickening at least 53,000 others.
The chemical, which can lead to severe kidney problems if ingested in large amounts, was then discovered in Chinese eggs, leading to concerns the chemical was much more prevalent in China's food chain than initially believed.
Wang acknowledged that the ministry issued a regulation in June last year banning the addition of melamine into livestock feed, according to a transcript of the interview on its website.
"Anyone who adds melamine into feed is acting against the law, we must resolutely combat this," Wang said.
The ministry also introduced a "rigid" standard to test the level of melamine in feed, Wang said, following a scandal over contaminated feed exported to the US that killed hundreds of pets there.
Despite this, experts have indicated melamine could still be being mixed into animal feed to make it appear higher in protein, and concerns are mounting that the practice is widespread.
In an editorial published on Friday, the China Daily said it was unclear whether melamine had found its way into other types of food.
"We hope it has not. But if fodder can be confirmed as the source of contamination for both the eggs and milk, action must be taken to check how widespread the use of this chemical is in the fodder industry," the paper said.
Meanwhile, the Chinese company blamed for selling the original batch of melamine-tainted eggs to Hong Kong is suing its feed provider, according to the official People's Daily newspaper.
The brief report on Friday said an investigation by the company, Hanwei, found that livestock feed provided by Xinmin Mingxing company contained melamine.
Both companies are based in the northeastern province of Liaoning.