31,000 cans destroyed, 19,000 more await customs declaration
Beijing's quarantine authorities destroyed more than 31,000 cans of infant formula imported from Australia on Wednesday after they discovered that the expiration dates had been tampered with.
Two batches of the OZ Milko infant formula, made by OZ Dairy Foods in Melbourne, had their original June 2014 expiration date covered with a stamp reading "September 2015", the Beijing Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau found.
Inspectors, who have tightened their checks on imported infant formula products, destroyed one batch of 31,000 cans at Beijing Gaoantun Waste-to-Energy Co on Wednesday afternoon. The other batch of 19,000 cans is being kept at the Tianzhu Free Trade Zone in Beijing, awaiting a customs declaration.
Chinese regulations prohibit altering or tampering with expiration date labels on the packaging of food products.
On Tuesday, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine enacted a new regulation that baby formula products must have labels in Chinese before they can be imported to China.
Feng Qian, deputy director of the division of food safety supervision at the Beijing inspection bureau, said the agency will expand its supervision of imported infant formula products.
"We will further increase spot checks of products and make sure that they all comply with the new regulation," he said.
Feng said the authorities will either return or destroy infant formula imports that do not comply.
A Li, director of the Beijing quarantine authority's Tianzhu Free Trade Zone division, said authorities are still waiting for Australian authorities' investigation results before taking action against the manufacturer.
A Li said none of the products entered the Chinese market.
OZ Milko's infant formula was singled out among nine other products for poor consumer practices by China Central Television's 315 Gala, which airs each March 15 to mark World Consumer Rights Day.
OZ Dairy issued an apology to Chinese consumers on its website two days after the program aired, saying that it will fully cooperate with authorities in China and Australia, as well as its distributors and customers in China to rectify the issues raised.
It added that the products tampered with have been recalled in Australia.
According to the Beijing inspection bureau, OZ Dairy has exported more than 100,000 cans of baby formula to China since 2012.
Infant formula has been one of the most tightly supervised food products in China after a 2008 scandal in which a number of farmers and manufacturers were found to have added melamine, a toxic chemical, to raw milk.
The incident left at least 300,000 babies sickened and six dead from kidney failure.