Beijing: Three people died and 34 were left ill in northwestern China from food poisoning believed linked to tainted milk, the government said, in what is the country`s latest food safety scare.
A preliminary investigation showed victims in the city of Pingliang suffered nitrite poisoning after drinking milk, a local government statement said.
Nitrite is a chemical used to make dyes and to preserve meats.
Two suspect dairy farms have been shut down and are being investigated, said the statement issued on Thursday. Pingliang is in Gansu province.
According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, nitrite poisoning can result in nausea, dizziness, respiratory distress, loss of consciousness and seizures.
Such safety incidents are routine for China`s notoriously scandal-prone food industries, with the dairy sector a particular area of concern.
The dairy industry was rocked in 2008 when at least six babies died and another 300,000 became ill from milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine.
Melamine had been added to give the appearance of higher protein levels.
Authorities said at the time that all suspect milk powder had been confiscated or destroyed and promised to clean up the industry, but melamine-tainted products have continued to reach the market.
In July last year, authorities announced they had found 25,000 tonnes of tainted milk powder earlier in 2009.
Last month, the country`s largest meat processor was forced to apologise when clenbuterol was found in some of its pork products. The illegal additive can lead to dizziness, heart palpitations and profuse sweating.
Other recent scandals have involved contaminated red wine, bleached mushrooms, fake tofu and recycled cooking oil.