China dairy producer says it destroys tainted milk

December 26, 2011 - 6:26 AM
China Tainted Milk

FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2008 file photo, workers squeeze melamine-tainted milk into a drainage ditch leading to the sewage treatment plant at a Mengniu Dairy factory in Wuhan, in central China's Hubei province. Mengniu, China's biggest milk producer, said it has destroyed a batch of milk after it was discovered to have excessive levels of a cancer-causing toxin, in another safety scare for the country's dairy industry. Mengniu said in a statement seen on its website Monday, Dec. 26, 2011, that the problem was discovered before the milk tainted with high levels of aflatoxin was sold to the public. (AP Photo, File) CHINA OUT

BEIJING (AP) — China's biggest milk producer destroyed a batch found to have excessive levels of a cancer-causing toxin, in another safety scare for the country's dairy industry.

Mengniu Dairy Group said in a statement seen on its website Monday that the problem was discovered before the milk containing high levels of aflatoxin was sold to the public.

"Mengniu would like to express our sincere apologies to consumers," the company said, adding none of the tainted products had made their way into the market.

"We will draw a big lesson from this incident and will work harder to meet all national and corporate standards on quality in the future," it said.

Aflatoxin is produced by a fungus that commonly grows in grain and legume crops such as peanuts, soybeans, corn and wheat. It can be found in the milk of animals that eat tainted crops.

High levels are toxic and carcinogenic, but aflatoxin is not considered harmful at low levels.

Mengniu's statement said the tainted milk was from one of its plants in Sichuan province in southwestern China. It did not say how much milk was destroyed or how high the aflatoxin levels were.

China's food chain, and especially the diary industry, has come under increased scrutiny in recent years because of a series of safety problems.

In 2008, at least six babies died and 300,000 became sick after being feed milk powder tainted with melamine. The industrial chemical is illegally added to dairy products to make them appear higher in protein.

A dairy farmer and a milk salesman were executed and 19 other people were jailed for their role in selling the tainted milk products.