China now probes melamine tableware scare

BEIJING (Reuters) - China, fighting a health scandal over melamine found in milk and other food products, now says it is investigating melamine tableware, following reports it might be harmful to health when hot.

Quality inspectors told Xinhua news agency they were organizing tests of melamine tableware “following reports that some products contained poisonous ingredients.”

Melamine is an industrial compound used in making plastic chairs, countertops, tableware, flame retardants and even concrete. It was added by unscrupulous manufacturers to food to cheat nutrition tests due to its high in nitrogen content.

The melamine scandal has battered faith in China-made products, after a series of other food- and product-safety scares and led to recalls of China-made dairy products around the world.

At least six babies died from kidney stones after drinking contaminated formula in China and hundreds of thousands fell ill.

In 2007, it was melamine that made its way into wheat gluten from China and then into pet food sold in the United States that killed dogs and made many sick.

China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine “has always put great stress on food and tableware product safety,” Xinhua quoted it as saying in an overnight report.

“We are keeping a close eye on this issue and conducting product safety testing.”

Tian Wenhua, former chairwoman of Sanlu Group, the company at the heart of the melamine-in-milk scandal which has since gone bankrupt, goes on trial on Wednesday along with other three senior executives, the Beijing News said on Tuesday.

By Monday, 17 suspects involved in producing, selling, buying and adding melamine into raw milk had gone on trial, the China News Service said.

(Reporting by Nick Macfie; Editing by Valerie Lee)

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