BEIJING – China’s Cabinet vowed a complete overhaul of the scandal-ridden dairy industry Monday, pledging to inspect every link from the farm to the dinner table to try to restore public trust in Chinese-made food products.
In its strongest action yet, China’s highest level of government called the industry “chaotic” and acknowledged there was a lack of oversight.
At Monday’s meeting of the State Council, or Cabinet, the government said it would punish companies and officials involved in the contamination of milk products that has been blamed in the deaths of four babies and for sickening more than 54,000 children.
The scandal revealed “that China’s dairy production and circulation has been chaotic and supervision has been gravely absent,” said a notice about the meeting on the government’s Web site. Unscrupulous “elements” and companies had also put profit above people’s lives, it said.
Police detained six more people suspected of tampering with milk in northern China, a spokeswoman said, bringing to 32 the number of people arrested in the scandal.
Monday’s meeting, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, was the latest attempt by the Chinese government to show it is tackling the widespread contamination of milk and other dairy products with melamine, an industrial chemical used in making plastics and fertilizers. It was the second time the State Council, China’s highest government body, has met since the crisis broke last month.
China has struggled to contain public dismay and growing international concern, castigating local officials for negligence while promising to raise product safety standards. But the scandal has continued to lead to recalls and the blocking of Chinese imports in numerous countries.
The head of China’s quality watchdog said the country was stepping up checks on its exports to ensure they conformed to the food safety standards of recipient countries, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
“Food safety concerns not only the health of the public, but also the life of business,” Xinhua quoted Wang Yong, the director of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, the agency responsible for ensuring that China’s food supply chain is safe.
Wang replaced Li Changjiang, who resigned last month in the wake of the scandal. Wang vowed to make “a substantial change in the production and distribution of dairy products.”