White Rabbit candy the first casualty in govt crackdown
A woman at a Phnom Penh market examines milk products on Wednesday. Chinese goods feared to be tainted with the industrial chemical melamine have been pulled from shelves in Cambodia.
GOVERNMENT inspectors have seized a number of imported goods suspected of containing Chinese dairy products, which will be tested for the banned industrial chemical melamine before being cleared by the authorities.
Import-export inspections agency Camcontrol has not found any Chinese milk-powder products known to be tainted with the chemical, but Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said it has seized potentially-tainted drinking milk, ice cream, chocolate, cake and candy products - including the popular Chinese White Rabbit candy.
"The Ministry of Commerce has already stopped traffic of 19,200 packs of White Rabbit candy from Bayon Supermarket, 80 packs from Pencil, and three packs from O'Russei market," Cham Prasidh wrote in a September 26 letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
In response to a scandal that has seen 13,000 Chinese children who drank melamine-tainted infant formula hospitalised, Camcontrol Deputy Director Khlauk Chuon said the agency was treating any food containing Chinese dairy products as suspicious.
"We are searching everywhere, in every city and at markets in remote areas," he said, adding that White Rabbit candy was a particular concern. "We are suspicious about [White Rabbit] candy, but we are not sure yet whether or not it contains melamine," he said.
The popular candy has already been taken off the market in other countries after it was found to be tainted with melamine.
Khlauk Chuon said authorities also feared Chinese milk products might be re-branded, allowing them to slip into the country unnoticed.
Pen Sovicheat, head of the Trademarks Office in the Ministry of Commerce, said inspectors had not yet found any instances of products being relabelled but were taking "major precautions".
"Camcontrol has issued a notice to all provinces along the border to verify any imports from China," he said.
O'Russei market chief Keang Lak said Camcontrol officials had confiscated a few bags of White Rabbit candy from the market, but were still searching for tainted milk powder. "This is a big problem that affects people's health, so everyone has to pay attention to it," he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY HOR HAB