Cadbury pulls melamine-laced chocolate from China

By: AP
By: AP

HONG KONG (AP) -- British candy maker Cadbury said Monday it is recalling 11 types of Chinese-made chocolates found to contain melamine, as police in northern China raided a network accused of adding the banned chemical to milk.

A Cadbury spokesman said it was too early to say how much of the chemical was in the chocolates made at its Beijing plant, and another company official said the factory was responsible for only 0.5 percent of global sales and supplies Australia, Taiwan, Nauru, Hong Kong and Christmas Island.

"It's too early to say where the source was or the extent of it," said the spokesman, who declined to be identified because of company policy.

The company said its dairy suppliers are generally cleared by government milk testing.

Meanwhile, police in Hebei province arrested 22 people and seized more than 480 pounds of the chemical, used to make plastics, in the raids, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The report said the melamine was produced in illicit plants and sold to breeding farms and purchasing stations.

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.

The scandal broke this month when authorities said infant formula produced by Sanlu was causing kidney stones in babies and young children. Four infants have died and some 54,000 have become ill after drinking the contaminated baby formula.

Subsequent tests revealed melamine contamination in products ranging from yogurt to candy to pastries.

Authorities believe suppliers added melamine, which is rich in nitrogen, to watered-down milk to deceive quality tests for protein.

Another Cadbury spokesman, reached through the company's London office, said there was no the contaminated chocolate could find its way into other countries because the factory only supplies Australia, Taiwan, Nauru, Hong Kong and Christmas Island.

"That factory in Beijing only exports to those markets. It's only a small factory," a Cadbury spokesman said. He refused to give his name and refused to explain why he would not give his name for publication.

"The product made in China makes up 0.5 percent of global sales, and this (the subject of this recall) is less than that because it's only chocolate," he said.

Cadbury's chocolates sold in the United States are not affected by the recall, said Kirk Saville, a spokesman for Hershey's, Cadbury's sole U.S. distributor.

Saville said he is also "positive" no Hershey's suppliers receive milk products from China, making their products safe.

Separately, Kraft Foods, the maker of Oreo cookies, and Mars, the maker of M&Ms and Snickers candy, said they believe Indonesian authorities were mistaken when they announced they had found melamine in samples of their products made in China.

"We don't use any milk ingredients from China in any Oreo products, no matter where they are made or sold," said Claire Regan, a Kraft spokeswoman.

Mar said, in a statement on its Web site, it is confident there's no melamine in any of its chocolate or candy made in China and called the Indonesian results "completely inconsistent" with test findings from other government and independent labs in Asia and Europe.

So far, only a local agency has checked the products for melamine, but the levels found were considered very high.

Melamine in food products is considered safe by Hong Kong health authorities at 2.5 parts per million or less.

Hong Kong supermarket chain PARKnSHOP also pulled its Chinese-made Oreo, M&M and Snickers products as a precaution, spokeswoman Pinky Chan said.

Countries around the world have removed items containing Chinese milk ingredients from store shelves or banned them outright.

Authorities in China had previously arrested at least 18 people and detained more than two dozen suspects in connection with the scandal.

Associated Press Writer Raphael Satter contributed to this report from London.

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