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EU bans baby food with Chinese milk

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: EU announces a ban on imports of baby food containing Chinese milk
  • India, New Zealand and Australia also impose ban on Chinese milk products
  • "This is a serious concern," says New Zealand food safety official
  • Traces of Melamine -- industrial contaminant -- found in Chinese dairy products
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(CNN) -- The European Union announced a ban on imports of baby food containing Chinese milk Thursday, after tainted dairy products linked to the deaths of four babies turned up in candy and other Chinese-made goods that were quickly pulled from stores worldwide.

In addition to the ban, the European Commission called for tighter checks on other Chinese food imports, The Associated Press reported.

Earlier Thursday, Australia, New Zealand and India joined the rapidly growing list of countries pulling contaminated Chinese food products from store shelves.

In Vietnam, authorities established inspection teams to test milk products, especially those from China, the Vietnam News Agency reported. The Health Ministry said inspection teams would "look into food hygiene and safety standards ... involving in milk and dairy products nationwide."

Adding to the growing backlash, India's Health Ministry imposed a three-month ban on the import of Chinese milk and milk products on Wednesday.

It is the latest fallout from a tainted milk scandal that has spread around the world.

White Rabbit Creamy Candies contain unacceptable levels of the chemical melamine, New Zealand Food Safety Authority and Australian food regulators said Wednesday.

The candies have already been recalled in Hong Kong, where authorities confirmed a fifth case Thursday of a kidney problems related to the consumption of milk products tainted with melamine.

That case involved a 10-year-old boy who lives in Hong Kong but had traveled to mainland China and was found to have kidney stones. The boy was in stable condition, the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection said in a statement.

"This is a serious concern," said Sandra Daly, deputy chief executive for New Zealand's food safety agency. "We have issued a Director General's statement advising people not to eat these products as we cannot discount the likelihood of health risks resulting from the consumption of these sweets."

The candies have already been recalled in Hong Kong.

In the United Kingdom, the supermarket chain Tesco said Wednesday that it had pulled the children's sweets from store shelves over fears they contained melamine. Video Watch how the scandal has spread beyond milk »

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The problem first showed up in China in infant formula made with contaminated milk.

Nearly 53,000 children in China have been sickened by it or other products contaminated with the chemical melamine. Four babies have died. More than a dozen countries, from Asia to Africa to Europe, have banned or recalled Chinese milk products.

The United States, meanwhile, said inspectors would expand testing for Chinese products that may contain high levels of milk or milk proteins.

In South Korea, the government banned the importation of all Chinese products containing milk after Chinese biscuits tainted with melamine were discovered in the country, a government spokesman said.

A formal announcement was expected on Thursday, but the ban went into effect Wednesday night, the spokesman for the Korean Food and Drug Safety Authority said. Video Watch the fallout from the scandal »

The biscuits, called Me Sarang Custard, are sold under the label of a popular South Korean confectioner called Haitai but are produced in China.

Authorities in China have arrested 18 people in a nationwide investigation. They include two brothers who face charges of selling contaminated milk; the brothers could face death if convicted, according to China Daily, a state-run newspaper.

The raw milk used to produce powdered baby formula had been watered down, and the chemical melamine was added to fool quality checks, the newspaper said.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration said its investigators had not found the Chinese infant formula in question during visits to more than 1,000 stores. They were mainly in cities with large Chinese communities, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; and New York.

The FDA plans to continue such checks, it said, and "has broadened its domestic and import sampling and testing of milk-derived ingredients and finished food products containing milk, such as candies, desserts, and beverages that could contain these ingredients from Chinese sources."

Meanwhile, health officials in Singapore and Indonesia announced additional recalls of products made with the contaminated milk. Products pulled from store shelves range from flavored milks and ice creams to cookies and candies

Authorities in a variety of places have stopped importing some Chinese products made from milk including Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Burundi, Gabon, Tanzania, Brunei and the Philippines.

Melamine is commonly used in coatings and laminates, wood adhesives, fabric coatings, ceiling tiles and flame retardants. Some Chinese dairy plants have added it to milk products to make it seem to have a higher protein level.

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Melamine is the same industrial contaminant from China that poisoned and killed thousands of U.S. dogs and cats last year.

Health experts say that ingesting melamine can lead to kidney stones, urinary tract ulcers, and eye and skin irritation. It also robs infants of much-needed nutrition.

CNN's Andy Saputra, Sohn Jie-Ae and Roya Shadravan contributed to this story.

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