Four people have been arrested in Northern China in response to a crackdown on milk products tainted with melamine, the same industrial chemical held responsible for six deaths and sickening 300,000 in 2008.
This time the culprit is Lekang Dairy and three of its’ senior employees already arrested – although one was then released on bail due to a reportedly serious heart condition. The fourth man, a milk powder dealer named Ma Shuanglin, is said to have been selling powder that should have been destroyed by a 2008 government order.
But these four are just the most recently charged in a surprising emergence of melamine cases.
Earlier this year, news got out that our city’s own not-so-cuddly Shanghai Panda Dairy Company was caught diluting their products with melamine for the second time – they were one of the 22 companies implemented in the 2008 scandal as well.
Considering the huge push for food safety when melamine first raised its tainted head, what exactly is the government doing and saying about these serious issues now that they’ve resurfaced?
In response to an outcry earlier this week from the official media for an intensive sweep of the industry, Chinese authorities have ordered a crackdown. Specifically, inspectors have been dispatched to 16 provinces for a fresh look at all suspect products.
The Financial Times has quoted Chen Zhu, China’s health minister, as saying:
“A few unscrupulous companies and individuals still put profit above conscience and neglect the public’s health, even though [the government] has launched a high-pressure clampdown on food safety.”
But what about in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics, when the actual damage was being done? Local government officials were found to have covered up reports of severe illnesses directly linked to melamine. Protecting the country’s image while the spotlight was on? Maybe decisive action could have been taken earlier on in order to prevent the unnecessary deaths of six babies and countless others.
Either way, action is being taken now. Those four arrested yesterday are scheduled to be put on trial (possibly) by next month. In the words of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, “Off with their heads!” Stay tuned.