November 17, 2008


China seeks ways to dump melamine-filled milk


As the melamine scandal battered its dairy industry, China is facing a new problem: how to get rid of the toxic stuff.


Thousands of milk laced with melamine-- a chemical used in making fertilizer and plastics-- have been pulled from shelves and warehouses since September, and local governments now face the huge -- and costly-- problem of safely disposing it.


Most has been burned while others have dumped it into a river, but turned waters into frothy white and raising fears about the safety of the drinking water.


The Health Ministry has not released a total figure for the amount of impure dairy products recalled or said how much has been destroyed.


But last month alone, more than 32,000 tonnes -- enough to fill about 23 Olympic-sized pools -- were disposed in Hebei, according to the official Xinhua news agency.


At a factory in the southern city of Guangzhou, tonnes of contaminated milk powder were incinerated in a 3,000-degree heat.


According to Wang Fan, director of Guangzhou's food safety office, the remaining contaminated milk will be made into cement to guarantee that its disposal will meet national environmental and health protection requirements.


Amid environmental concerns, China has so far gotten generally good marks from scientists and environmentalists in its efforts to dispose of the adulterated milk.


Beijing has issued new guidelines on how to destroy the tainted products. They recommend burning the milk in large-capacity incinerators or, if such facilities aren't available, burying small amounts in landfills -- as long as local environmental bureaus approve.


Peter Ben Embarek, a Geneva-based scientist at the World Health Organization's food safety department said burning or burying breaks down melamine and neutralizes its toxicity.


Embarel said burying or burning are okay if it is done in controlled waste disposal sites and with good soil conditions as it might lead to contamination.


Melamine has been the culprit in the death of illnesses of babies this year. The chemical which is high in nitrogen, is said to water down in milk to make it appear protein-rich in quality tests.

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