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The recent spate of tainted milk reports also underscores China's struggle to effectively regulate a massive food industry full of small, scattered operations.
China adopted a food safety law last summer that places more responsibility on food producers to ensure their products are safe, but it will take more time for the law to be fully implemented, said Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, a WHO senior scientist on food safety based in Beijing.
"You have millions of food producers who all also need to be trained and educated, in some cases in some very basic food hygiene and food safety principles," Ben Embarek said.
"What is a little bit discouraging is to see that there are still producers out there who have not understood the seriousness of tampering with food safety and are continuing to put profits before safety in their products," he said.
Concerns about tainted milk products peaked again early this year after authorities in Shanghai said they secretly investigated a dairy for nearly a year before announcing it had been producing tainted products.
The case was especially troubling because Shanghai Panda Dairy Co. was one of the 22 dairies named by China's product safety authority in the 2008 scandal, with its products having among the highest levels of melamine.
In other recent cases, officials in late January said tainted dairy products from three companies were pulled from more than a dozen convenience stores around the southern province of Guizhou. Officials said products recalled during the previous scandal somehow made it back to the market.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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