Beijing. More than 1,500 cartons of Chinese biscuits exported to Hong Kong and Singapore have tested positive for melamine as suspects in the protracted tainted-food scandal go on trial in China, news media there reported on Tuesday.
The scandal has battered faith in Chinese-made products after a series of food- and product-safety scares led to recalls of Chinese-made dairy products around the world. At least six infants died after drinking contaminated formula in China and hundreds of thousands fell ill.
Melamine is an industrial compound used in making plastic chairs, among other things, and is added to food to cheat nutrition tests.
Quality inspectors in Dongguan in the southern province of Guangdong found the latest contaminated biscuits after examining 13 batches of 4,800 boxes for export after neighboring Hong Kong and Singapore reported tainted samples, the China News Service said.
The tainted products have been destroyed while others were sent back to the manufacturer, it said. Investigations showed the melamine came from milk powder.
Tian Wenhua, former chairwoman of Sanlu Group, goes on trial on Wednesday along with another three senior executives of the company at the heart of the scandal and has since gone bankrupt, the Beijing News said. Seventeen suspects involved in producing, selling, buying and adding melamine to raw milk have gone on trial, the China News Service said.
In addition, brothers Geng Jinping and Geng Jinzhu are accused of being “middlemen” who added melamine to milk, which was then sold to Sanlu, the largest Chinese dairy producer to have become embroiled in the scandal, and other dairy companies, Chinese television said.
Geng Jinping, the former boss of a milk station, and Geng Jinzhu, a driver, allegedly mixed 434 kilograms of melamine-laced “protein powder” with more than 900,000 kilograms of milk at the beginning of October last year, CCTV said. They sold more than 2.8 million yuan ($405,000) worth of product until they were caught in September, according to the report.
The trials have received a high profile in China, broadcast in daily televised news bulletins — a rare occurrence in a country where court cases are usually conducted behind closed doors. Trials often last just one day and verdicts are announced soon after. The verdicts in the milk trials have not yet been announced, however.
The publicity appears to be part of an effort by China’s communist authorities to show that they have taken tough action to end an enormous public relations nightmare.