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Jiang Weisuo the renowned whistle-blower on China’s tainted dairy products, died in a hospital in Shaanxi province on November 12 after he sustained knife wounds in an assault ten days earlier. Jiang Weisuo was returning from a meeting at his dairy company when he was attacked. Police have now detained a suspect and rumors are rife that the attack was a retaliation of Jiang’s efforts to expose the unlawful practices of China’s dairy industry. The police are still conducing investigations, and mystery still shrouds the reason behind the attack.
Jiang earned his title after his 2006 report “Dairy Industry in Western China is Almost Doomed,” uncovering common adulteration practices throughout the industry. Courageous as he was, Jiang reported his findings to the local authorities in China, and even succeeded in revealing illegal practices in neighboring businesses. He was interviewed by CCTV, the largest television network in China. In 2008 he opened his own company, Jiang Weisuo Dairy, through which he began promoting “trusted” milk products. The company now has more than 300 franchises all over China.
In 2008, six babies died after consuming milk laced with melamine, and over 290,000 infants demonstrated symptoms of urinary disorders. At least 860 babies were hospitalized during this period.
Melamine is an industrial chemical and can lead to kidney stones. Its addition to watered-down milk allowed the nitrogen content levels to increase, thus ensuring the items passed tests that checked protein levels.
Melamine was discovered in milk powder, and this scandal sent shock waves throughout China and across the world. As more and more infants tested positive for kidney malfunctions, the government began to introduce measures to better quality within the dairy industry. The few lawyers who decided to aid parents to file lawsuits pushed for compensation as well.
Yi Kaixuan was one such infant who died of kidney failure in May 2008, after he continuously consumed Sanlu milk powder for six months.
Meanwhile, a Swedish-Danish dairy product major, Arla, has developed a unique screening method that can reveal whether milk has been adulterated to increase profits. In China, where people have little faith in the quality of food products, this method can be widely implemented. Arla inaugurated the “China-Denmark Milk Technology Cooperation Center” in Beijing on November 26, and as one of its first initiatives, the screening method will be implemented at the Mengnius dairies. The center has been set up to promote food safety within the dairy industry in China.
According to Frede Juulsen, SVP at Arla,
“If this method had been available to Chinese dairies in 2008, they might have discovered that the milk had been tampered with, and avoided the earlier problems with food safety.”
Food safety in China has been a long, ongoing issue for the authorities, and the milk scandal in 2008 only began ringing the alarm bells. The screening method, devised by Arla, will analyze raw milk that deviates from normal milk and check for melamine and other toxic substances. The new screening method will hopefully restore consumer faith in the dairy industry.
Food adulteration is a worldwide phenomenon and countries such as India have developed testing kits too. These kits detect the presence of starch, urea, glucose, sugar, pond water, ammonium compounds, common salt, formalin, and hydrogen peroxide in milk. This year, it has also been noted that 68 percent of milk in India does not conform to standards, which are set by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).