UN Wants Steps to Be Taken to Reassure Consumers as China Milk Scandal Worsens

by Rajashri on Sep 27 2008 12:55 PM

Even as China's toxic milk scandal deepened, the United Nations called for concerted action to remove melamine from the food chain and restore public confidence in dairy products.

"Food safety is not the sole responsibility of public authorities," UN health and food agencies said in a joint statement. "The food industry is also responsible for ensuring a safe supply of food to the consumer," notably small children, they said.

Melamine-tainted milk has made 53,000 Chinese children ill and killed four, prompting more than a dozen countries to slap import bans on Chinese dairy products or take steps to curb consumption.

"Restoring consumer confidence is critical," said Ezzeddine Boutrif of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

"Melamine-contaminated products should be removed from the food chain in order to prevent further exposure," he said in the statement, adding: "The safe supply of dairy products needs to be restored immediately."

Jorgen Schlundt, a food safety expert at the World Health Organisation (WHO), said: "An adequate supply of safe powdered infant formula (is essential) to meet the needs of infants who are not breastfed."

The statement urged countries to "closely monitor their markets" and to recall and destroy products "based on an assessment of the risk to human health."

The FAO's Boutrif urged the food industry to "strongly invest in food safety and adopt a food safety culture covering the food chain from raw materials through to the final product."