China asks three local milk producers to recall infant formula

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - China's food safety watchdog has asked three milk producers in central Shaanxi province to recall substandard infant formula milk powder and urged local authorities to punish the firms severely if they have broken the law.

China Food and Drug Administration said on its website on Tuesday that excessive nitrate was found in five batches of milk powder products made by Shaanxi Guanshan Dairy and tested earlier this year.

Higher than standard levels of selenium were found in another two batches of milk powder produced by Xi'an Guanshan Dairy and Shengtang Industry. All the products were made from goat's milk.

The watchdog said nitrate itself was harmless but could become toxic if it encountered particular kinds of bacteria, and that food safety regulators had yet to approve selenium as a nutrient suitable to be used in infant milk formula.

In a notice dated June 19 that was posted on its website, Shaanxi Guanshan Dairy said it would recall the flawed products, stop production and rectify the problems.

Tainted milk is a sensitive topic in China after a 2008 health scare involving milk contaminated by melamine, which killed at least six children and caused thousands to fall ill.