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Products Liability and Chinese Milk

Most Florida residents have probably heard of the tainted milk scandal affecting China right now. A number of manufacturing companies, including Sanlu, a leading dairy producer in China, have been accused of illegally manufacturing milk that contains traces of an industrial chemical known as tripolycyanamide or melamine. Manufacturers allegedly watered down milk in order to make a greater profit and then added melamine to milk products in order to allow the milk to pass testing. Melamine added protein to the watered-down milk which allowed manufacturers to convince inspectors that the milk was adequately nutritious.

The scandal was initially uncovered when children using a baby formula began ill. Since then, the scandal has spread world-wide as it has become apparent that milk products around the world have been affected. So far, it is not known whether wrongful death suits will be filed outside of China over the scandal.

Melamine, when consumed, can cause kidney failure, kidney stones and other kidney illnesses, which can be especially dangerous to young children and the elderly. So far in China, it is estimated that 50,000 babies have fallen ill after drinking tainted milk. A worldwide figure for fatalities and illnesses is not yet known. Many countries so far have banned Chinese dairy products.

Although the US has not yet taken that step, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued some recalls linked to the scandal. For example, all flavours of White Rabbit Creamy Candy, distributed by QFCO, Inc. of Burlingame, California have been recalled. It is believed that the candies – sold in California, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington – have been made with Chinese dairy products containing melamine. So far, there are no reports of any US consumers becoming ill from the products.

The FDA has also been advising consumers that some Mr. Brown instant coffee and milk tea products sold by King Car Food Industrial Co. Ltd, may be laced with melamine. The FDA advises that anyone who has purchased these products avoid consuming them. The agency also advises anyone who has consumed the products and has fallen ill to report their symptoms to a family doctor immediately.

In light of consumer worries over the melamine scare, the FDA has also made some suggestions to consumers to stay safe:

1) Continue to monitor the FDA website and the news media to learn of news recalls. Companies manufacturing any product with imported milk products – this includes Mars and Hershey products and infant formulas manufactured overseas that have met the requirements for distribution in the United States – are still considered safe, although testing of all possibly affected products remains ongoing.

2) Read labels carefully. The FDA warns the public that not all food products sold in Asian markets may be safe. For example, infant formula manufactured in China, and available for purchase at some Asian markets, may be tainted. Customers should exercise caution when purchasing any products that may not have been tested for distribution in the United States.

3) Do not buy Chinese-imported infant formula products or other milk-based products online. Products sold online are often not answerable to US laws surrounding recalls, so it is possible that tainted, recalled products will still be available for online purchase even if they are not safe. If a product has been recalled, do not buy that product, even if it is available for purchase online.