Singapore suspends China milk imports; deadly chemical found in yoghurt

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Sep 19 2008 10:58 PM | Updated as of Sep 20 2008 06:58 AM

SINGAPORE - Singapore on Friday suspended the import and sale of all milk and milk products from China after local tests found samples containing the potentially deadly industrial chemical melamine.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said in a statement that its tests found melamine in two samples of Yili brand iced yoghurt.

They also found the chemical in the Dutch Lady brand of strawberry flavoured milk manufactured in China, AVA said.

Those products have been removed from market shelves and will be destroyed, the agency said.

"As a precautionary measure, AVA is also suspending the import and sale of all milk and milk products from China with immediate effect," it said.

"Retailers and importers have been instructed to recall these products and these products will be withheld from sale until they have cleared the necessary tests."

AVA said local food manufacturers have also been instructed to stop using milk and milk products from China as ingredients until the agency completes its probe.

"Consumers are also advised not to consume any milk and milk products from China pending AVA's investigations," it said.

Four babies in China have died from drinking infant milk powder contaminated with melamine and the crisis over poisoned Chinese dairy products escalated Friday.

The US coffee chain Starbucks stopped serving drinks with milk in many Chinese outlets after the Chinese government ordered a mass recall of dairy products.

Yili, Mengniu and Guangming -- big brands consumed and trusted by hundreds of millions of Chinese -- were affected by the recall after authorities checked their products and found traces of melamine, which is used in plastics.

Supermarket shelves across China were emptied of many products made by the three Chinese firms after the government said melamine had been discovered in some of their regular milk.

Melamine was initially reported only in milk powder.

Singapore's AVA said it advised consumers on Wednesday about a recall of the Yili yoghurt product after tests in Hong Kong found it contaminated with the chemical, which can be lethal if consumed in large amounts.

Hong Kong's government on Thursday sought a recall of all Yili products after finding melamine in eight out of 30 drinks, ice creams and yoghurts it tested.

Melamine is normally used to make plastics but it can also make milk and other food products appear to have a higher protein content than they actually do.

It has become apparent in recent days that people in China have been deliberately watering down the milk to cut costs, then adding in the melamine to boost the protein content and make the product look normal.

Singapore is an island nation which imports virtually all its food.