Beijing: In yet another scandal involving China`s troubled dairy industry, a cancer-causing toxin was found in milk produced by a leading company.
A recent sample check by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) detected 1.2 micrograms per kilogramme of `Aflatoxin M1` in pure milk produced by Mengniu Dairy Group in Sichuan Province.
The amount was more than was twice the allowed maximum of 0.5 micrograms per kilogramme, state-run `Global Times` said.
"The problem was found before the products reached the market. The company has immediately sealed up and destroyed the products," Mengniu said in a statement apologising and pledging to intensify supervision and management on food safety.
A customer service operator with Mengniu said the problem was caused by feeding mildewed and rotten forage to cattle.
However, Mengniu`s statement failed to quiet public anger, the Daily said.
This is not the first time Mengniu has been involved in a safety scandal.
Last April, 251 pupils in a primary school in Yulin, Shaanxi Province, fell ill after drinking Mengniu milk for breakfast, but local authorities later ruled out the milk as the cause.
In late 2008, many dairy firms, including Mengniu, Yili Group and Bright Dairy, were exposed as making melamine-tainted infant formula.
At least six children were killed and about 300,000 others fell ill. This already sent customer confidence in national dairy giants plummeting.
Aflatoxin is an extremely toxic and carcinogenic fungus that can cause liver damage. Its traces are strictly restricted in grains that are used to make feed and food.
"Aflatoxin comes from stale feed given to dairy cows. Its residue will accumulate in the cattle`s body and enter its blood and milk," Wang Dingmian, chairman of the Guangzhou Dairy Industry Association said.
The substance may develop in grains or feed when they are not stored in proper conditions, Wang said, adding that the grains used to make feed might be mildewed or have rotted being kept too long.
The impact of the latest scandal has already hit the stock market. Many dairy shares suffered slumps. Yili saw its shares slide 5.36 per cent to 19.79 yuan while Bright Dairy shares dropped by 3.95 per cent yesterday.