The health department this week joined the worldwide recall of Chinese products containing milk, on suspicion that it was contaminated.
"The department today [Thursday] issued a directive requesting all the country's environmental health practitioners in the municipalities and metros to detain any products of Chinese origin that may contain milk or dairy products," said spokesman Fidel Hadebe in a statement.
This comes in the wake of possible contamination with melamine in certain products including infant formula, candies or sweets [White Rabbit] and biscuits. Hadebe said the verification of such contamination could be done by looking at the ingredient label for any indication of words such as "milk", "dairy", "whey", "lactose" and "casein".
"The information received from the metros and municipalities will enable the department to assess and co-ordinate sampling requirements of products detained in order to prevent the laboratories from being flooded with samples of products."
The Consumer Goods Council and the Dairy Standards Agency had also been informed about the matter and were requested to inform their members to test suspected products for melamine before making them available for distribution.
Legislation banned melamine in SA
Hadebe said the department had also verified with the agriculture department that no permits for primary dairy products were issued for Chinese imports since 2005. "This does not however include processed products with dairy products," Hadebe said.
He said according to the legislation melamine was not allowed into food products and therefore no levels of melamine were permitted.
The toxic chemical illegally added to China's dairy supplies has turned up in candy and other Chinese-made goods. Tainted powdered milk already has killed four Chinese babies and sickened more than 50 000 others.
Creamy White Rabbit candy has been recalled in several countries since the British supermarket chain Tesco announced Wednesday it would stop carrying the sweets.
White Rabbit candy, already recalled in Singapore and Britain, was found to contain "unsatisfactory" levels of melamine - more than six times the legal limit - in a test of 67 dairy products, according to the Hong Kong government's Centre for Food Safety.
Melamine is an industrial chemical used to make plastics and fertilizer, and can cause kidney stones and lead to kidney failure when consumed. – (Sapa, September 2008)
53 000 sick from contaminated milk