According to media reports, seven people have been arrested in connection with the discovery of 26 tonnes of tainted powder at the Jinfulia Dairy Company, based in Yangquan city, Shanxi province. Among the arrested was the general manager at the plant.
State media reports indicate that the milk powder in question was from the same batch that should have been destroyed following the 2008 scandal, which resulted in 300,000 cases of illness and six deaths.
Melamine, which is an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of plastics, was added to thousands of tonnes of watered-down milk products in 2008 to artificially boost protein levels in one of the most high-profile contamination cases in recent years.
China has since struggled to improve its food safety record, but despite high profile arrests and tougher laws, safety scares have continued to emerge.
In the case of melamine, the Ministry of Commerce had ordered the destruction of all contaminated product after the 2008 scare. However, some of the tainted material has made it out onto the market.
In August, police made six arrests at two locations related to the resale of the contaminated product. Three people were arrested at a factory in the Qinghai Province, accused of shipping tainted powder to the neighbouring Gansu province. And the other three were apprehended under suspicion of hiding tainted milk powder that should have been destroyed in 2008 and then selling it to the Qinghai plant.
Earlier in the month, the Chinese government threatened harsher treatment for those found guilty of food safety violations. A notice jointly issued by The Supreme Court, the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate said the death penalty should be imposed in severe cases of wrong-doing.