Lye-contaminated milk recalled in latest blow to Chinese dairy industry

By Mark Astley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Milk

Bright Dairy & Foods recalls milk after lye contamination
Hundreds of cartons of milk have been recalled in China after a production line error left some products contaminated with alkaline water.

Bright Dairy & Foods Co. initiated a recall for around 300 950ml cartons of Ubest-brand milk products after it emerged that a mechanical fault at one of its plants left some products contaminated with food-grade pipe-cleaning lye – a corrosive alkaline substance.

The Shanghai-based firm, which is better known in China as Guangming, became aware of the contamination after a number of consumers complained online that the milk they had purchased was a yellow colour and smelt bad.

The Shanghai Quality and Technical Supervision Bureau also began an investigation after learning about it on Chinese social networking site, Weibo.

It added that sales were limited to the Shanghai area.

The recall is the second involving key Chinese dairy firms in as many weeks.

Earlier this month, Yili International Group pulled six months’ worth of its ‘QuanYou’ infant formula from shelves across the country after authorities found elevated levels of mercury in the product.

Cleaning food-grade lye

“We deeply apologise for any impact this has had on our customers. We intend to strictly strengthen our relevant management procedures,”​ said a statement posted on Bright Dairy’s website.

The recall notice explained that products were contaminated on Monday 25 June 2012 during regular equipment maintenance.

During the “few seconds of delay when switching an automatic valve leading to a pipe, a small amount of cleaning food-grade lye instantly infiltrated pipelined milk,” ​said the statement.

The firm has pulled the affected products from shelves and has urged anyone who purchased it to contact them.

It added that it has since implemented stringent tests to ensure the safety of products leaving the facility.

Bright Dairy & Food Co. “attach great importance to a responsible attitude for the consumer,”​ the statement added.

Food safety scandals

The Bright Dairy & Foods recall is the latest in a long line of scandals to hit the Chinese dairy industry in recent years.

In 2008, six children died and nearly 300,000 were sickened the country after consuming infant formula contaminated with melamine – a hazardous chemical.

The Chinese government has vowed to 'clean-up' the old and often-overlapping national food safety standards in its latest five-year food safety plan - prioritising issues including dairy safety standards.

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