BEIJING (Reuters) - China, embroiled in a tainted milk scandal that has made thousands of infants sick, has published a list of foreign companies that failed to meet quality standards for imported products ranging from milk powder to rosewater.
At least four children died and tens of thousands were made ill by drinking milk powder adulterated with melamine, prompting many worried parents to switch to foreign-made formula.
Melamine, a compound used in making plastic chairs among other uses, is added to food to cheat nutrition tests and has since been found in other dairy products, eggs and animal feed, prompting recalls of Chinese-made products around the world.
China's quality watchdog intercepted 191 batches of problem foreign goods in July, including milk powder and other dairy products made by Australian and South Korean companies, the Beijing News said, citing the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).
Nearly nine tonnes of "Ausnutria"-brand milk powder produced by Australian dairy company Tatura Industries Ltd and supplied to an Australian-Chinese joint venture in southern Hunan province had failed a standard for E. sakazaki, a bacteria, according to a list posted on AQSIQ's website (aqsiq.gov.cn).
A company official at Tatura said the problem batch had passed quality inspections in Australia before being seized at Chinese customs.
"The products never made it into the local market," Tony McKenna, general manager of Nutritionals at Tatura, told Reuters by telephone.
"We've absolute faith in our quality systems, but we will comply with all of (the Chinese) requirements," McKenna said. More than 14 tonnes of "Pauls"-brand milk imported from Australia had also failed a bacteria standard, the notice said.
"Pauls" milk is produced by Parmalat Australia Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Italian dairy giant Parmalat.
A spokesman contacted by Reuters by telephone at Parmalat Australia said he was unaware of the inspection but would contact the Chinese importer.
Authorities also seized more than 4,000 pounds (1970 kg) of a brand of cheese supplied by an American company to Chinese dairy producer Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group, and other products ranging from British biscuits and chicken feet from Argentina.
It was not clear why the customs authority posted the list more than three months after the inspections, but the publication comes as China battles to improve its food safety system in the wake of a series of food and product-safety scandals.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Macfie)