WHO satisfied with China's response to tainted infant milk scandal

Other News Materials 21 September 2008 18:43 (UTC +04:00)

The World Health Organization (WHO) expressed satisfaction on Sunday with the response of the Chinese government in containing the spread of the tainted infant milk that has already killed at least four babies in China, dpa reported.

Shigeru Omi, outgoing regional director of the WHO Western Pacific Office which covers Asia and the Pacific, said that the WHO and the Chinese government are working closely to address the problem.

According to the latest information from the WHO, some 6,244 children in China have suffered health problems after being fed with infant milk contaminated with melamine

Melamine is used as a binding agent and coating for particle, fibre and laminated boards in furniture. It is also used to make fertilizer.

"I think the WHO and the government of China are already working very hard to address this issue," Omi said ahead of the 59th WHO Regional Committee Meeting for the Western Pacific in Manila.

Omi said that while there was initial lack of communication and coordination among different agencies in China at the start of the outbreak, the problem has been addressed and the Chinese government has come up with various efforts to deal with the situation.

"I think now the Chinese government is taking this issue very seriously and the government is inspecting a range of products to identify the magnitude of the problem and also products have been recalled to try to control the situation," he said. "WHO believes that this is the right direction."

While the WHO was not issuing an advisory to stop people from consuming infant formula from China, the organization said that decision of some countries to recall milk products imported from China was "reasonable."

"I think many other countries decided on the recall, I think under this kind of situation when the picture is not yet clear, I think this is a very reasonable position that countries take," Tony Hazzard, WHO Regional Adviser on Food Security, said.

Omi said the the tainted infant formula scandal in China underscored the need for the world community to begin addressing food safety issues seriously.

"Given globalization and the large volume of trade of food products, I think the international community as a whole has to work together" he said.

Omi said that global health security, which includes issues like climate change and food safety, will be one of the next big challenges the region will face in the next decade.