The government has extended ban on import of milk and its production from China for one more year.
A notification to this effect was issued by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade late Monday evening which says that milk and its products would continue to be banned from China until June 23, 2012 or further orders, whichever is earlier. The prohibition of import includes chocolates and chocolate products and candies/ confectionary/ food preparations with milk or milk solids as an ingredient.
The prohibition on import of milk and its products from China was originally imposed September 24, 2008 with reports that the milk products imported from China contain melamine – a banned substance injurious to health. The ban was extended since then time to time.
There were reports that milk sold in China was laced with melamine. Unfortunately, it is possible accumulates in the body and causes toxicity problems - basically damaging the kidneys and forming stones (solid deposits within the kidneys or bladder). Infants fed regularly with milk containing melamine will be particularly susceptible to these effects. As we have seen tens of thousands have been affected and several have died in China. Why this problem is not more widespread, given the rather large number of infants potentially having been drinking contaminated formula-milk for months is unclear.
Dairy farmers have been feeling the squeeze for years, particularly in parts of the world where technological advancement has been slow in coming and so their profit margins on their milk output have not been lifted by improved efficiency. In order to boost profits milk has been diluted. However, this brings with it the problem of falling quality - dilute with water and measurable concentrations of milk proteins, fats, and sugars fall. Dilution by up to 30 per cent has not been uncommon, which is where melamine comes in. Melamine is a small organic molecule with a high nitrogen content that can easily fool the quality control equipment into thinking that nitrogen (from protein) is present at normal levels and so the milk is passed as good.
Acting on reports by the food standard authority in the US, the American regulator also banned imports of milk and its products from China in 2008.
Despite repeated clarification from the Chinese Authorities of resolving melamine issue, the ban on imports of milk and its products continued in India which saw similar ban on import of Indian seafood into China.
The move came over a week after the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) had recommended extension of ban on milk and its products on June 22 in view of reports of poor quality standards of milk in China. The DGFT was awaiting a nod from the Ministry of Commerce for extending this ban further despite the previous suspension period expired on June 24.