Around 64 tonnes of raw dairy materials have been seized from a plant in the Qinghai Province, in northwest China, according to news reports.
Much of the contaminated product has been traced to the Hebei Province, which was the source of the toxic infant formula products from the 2008 scare that resulted in 300,000 cases of illness and six deaths.
Authorities have therefore suggested that traders may have bought contaminated materials that should have been destroyed after 2008, with the intention of processing and selling them on.
The discovery adds to concerns about the effectiveness of legislation on food safety that came into effect last July, following the 2008 scandal.
After fresh melamine cases emerged at the beginning of the year, Leatherhead market intelligence manager Chris Brockman said: “China has tried to make a big deal about food safety changes but clearly the processes in place are not as rigid or structured as they need to be.”
The 2008 scandal almost wiped out the Chinese dairy export industry and continued scares are likely to delay its recovery. At the end of June, the Indian government decided to extend its ban on all imports of milk or milk products from China.
No such comprehensive ban exists in Europe, but a spokesperson for Dairy UK said the European food industry imports very little dairy material from China and only does so from reliable sources.
Regulators across the globe have put in place systems to try and prevent melamine contaminated products from entering the supply chain. Only this week at the latest session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, maximum limits for melamine in food were set. By fixing Codex limits, the Commission hopes to make it easier for governments to identify deliberate contamination.