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February 26, 2010

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Melamine accused shift blame

THREE executives of Shanghai Panda Dairy Co used the blame game as they faced trial yesterday over selling dairy products tainted with melamine, the potentially dangerous chemical at the center of a national scandal two years ago.

Fengxian District People's Court did not hand down a decision yesterday.

Shanghai Panda Dairy Co Ltd was registered in 2001 by Wang Yuechao, 47, a Zhejiang Province native.

During the melamine milk powder scandal in 2008, the now-defunct Sanlu group was always center stage, but Panda's formula milk powder for babies was found to contain an excessive amount of the chemical as well.

A Panda retailer in Jinjiang City, Fujian Province, requested refund for 1,300 tainted Panda condensed milk products in October, 2008.

Wang, Hong Qide, former general manager of Panda, and Chen Dehua, former deputy general manager of the firm, hatched a plan to reuse the returned condensed milk in other products to save costs, although they knew some of it contained excessive melamine and had passed use-by date.

From February 9, 2009, to April 21, 2009, the firm produced 6,520 tins of condensed milk using the returned dairy products as raw material and sold 3,280 cans.

Inspectors of the Shanghai Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision found problems with the products in a check last April.

Maximum melamine content was 34.1 milligrams per kilogram in some cans. Only 2.5 mg/kg is allowed.

All of the defendants denied central involvement yesterday, shifting the blame to their co-accused.

Wang said he was in charge of marketing only and knew nothing about how to dispose of the refunded products.

Hong said he was newly transferred to his position and had no real power.

Chen told the court he was just following orders of the other two, though he admitted they reused the returned products to save costs.

China's food safety watchdog began a nationwide campaign early this month to eliminate melamine-laced dairy products that reappeared after the tainted milk scandal killed at least six infants and sickened more than 300,000 in 2008.


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