“Arla Food’s Chinese joint venture partner Mengniu Dairy is one of the dairies in China that has products that have shown traces of melamine in tests,” the company said in a statement.
“The products in question will be recalled from the market and production at Mengniu Arla’s milk powder plant (in Hohhot in Mongolia) will be halted for the time being,” it added.
Mengniu Dairy suspended trading of its shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange Wednesday, but did not spell out the reason for the move.
A total of 6,244 babies have fallen ill and three have died in China from drinking milk powder contaminated with melamine, an industrial chemical normally used to make plastics and glues, Chinese Health Minister Chen Zhu said Wednesday.
While many had now recovered, 1,327 remained in hospital, of whom 158 were suffering from acute kidney failure, Chen told reporters, in the government’s first comprehensive account of the crisis.
Sanlu Group, the company initially fingered as the alleged chief culprit, has fired its chairwoman and its general manager, while products from 21 other companies have also tested positive for melamine, which appears to have been added to make the products look rich in protein.
“Three of the 28 Mengniu products that were tested showed traces of melamine,” Arla Foods said, adding that all three products had been produced in January this year.
“This situation is deeply regrettable and sad for all the families who need high quality milk for their small children,” Arla Foods’ chief executive Peder Tuborgh said in the statement.
“It is important to thoroughly and comprehensively get to the bottom of this problem so consumer security can be guaranteed and confidence in the Chinese dairy industry can be restored,” he added.
Mengniu had received no reports of anyone falling ill after consuming its products, Arla said, adding that dairy farmers would continue to be paid for their milk during the time the powder milk plant was shut as long as it did not test positive for melamine.