Confectionery giant Cadbury became the latest victim of China’s poisoned milk scandal, reporting findings of melamine in its Chinese-made chocolates.
Meanwhile two US food makers were investigating Indonesian claims that high traces of the industrial chemical had been found in Chinese-made Oreos, M&Ms and Snickers, but stressed the same goods had tested negative in other Asian countries.
The milk scandal erupted earlier this month when China’s public learned that melamine had been found in milk powder and was linked to kidney stones in children.
Contamination has since turned up in liquid milk, yoghurt and other products made with milk.
Four deaths have been blamed on the bad milk and 54,000 children have developed kidney stones or other illnesses after drinking tainted baby formula.
A Cadbury spokesman said preliminary test results showed traces of melamine in chocolates produced at the company’s factory in Beijing, but it was not yet known how much of the chemical was in them.
“These are preliminary findings from tests. And it’s too early to say where the source was or the extent of it,” the spokesman said.
Cadbury, one of the world’s largest chocolate makers, said it recalled 11 types of chocolate made at the Beijing factory. The recalled chocolates are distributed in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, Nauru and Christmas Island, the company said.
It added, however, that Cadbury factories outside China did not use Chinese dairy products and that all its dairy suppliers had been cleared by government milk testing. It did not say what governments.
Experts say some amount of melamine, which is used to make plastics, may be transferred from the environment during food processing.
Ingesting a small amount of the chemical poses no danger, but health experts say melamine can cause kidney stones and lead to kidney failure. Infants are particularly vulnerable.
Meanwhile, Indonesia’s Food and Drug Monitoring Agency said a dozen products distributed nationwide, including M&Ms, Oreos and Snickers repeatedly tested positive for melamine last week.
Mars, which makes M&Ms and Snickers, and Kraft Foods, which makes Oreos, said they would comply with the Indonesian government’s recall but questioned the test results.
Mars said in a statement issued in Hong Kong that tests by the governments of Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea and Malaysia had cleared Mars chocolate and other products.
Chinese regulators and a German laboratory also found milk powder supplied to Mars’ factory in China free of melamine, the company said.
“The vastly different results give Mars significant reason to question the validity of the Indonesian laboratory results,” the statement said.
Kraft took a similar position.
“We are trying to understand what methodology was used,” Tod Gimbel, Kraft’s director of corporate affairs for the Asia Pacific, said from Singapore.
The two companies said they would conduct their own tests and were looking into the possibility the suspect products were counterfeit.
Meanwhile, police in China’s Hebei province arrested 22 people and seized more than 480lbs of melamine in the raid, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Xinhua said 19 of the 22 detainees were managers of pastures, breeding farms and purchasing stations. It did not say when the raids took place.
Authorities believe suppliers added melamine, which is rich in nitrogen, to watered-down milk to deceive quality tests for protein.