Malaysia bans Chinese chocolates, candies in wake of milk scare

Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia has expanded an existing ban on importing Chinese dairy products to include chocolates, biscuits, milk candies and other foods containing milk, following the baby formula contamination scandal, officials and reports said Tuesday.

The move comes after neighbouring Singapore discovered traces of melamine, an industrial chemical, in samples of a Chinese milk candy which is widely sold in Malaysia, said a health ministry spokesman.

Malaysia has in place a ban on powdered and liquid milk from China because of hoof-and-mouth disease in Chinese cattle in the early 1990s.

The Health Ministry's food quality and safety director Noraini Mohamad Othman said the expanded ban would now include the White Rabbit brand candy, biscuits and chocolates.

"The ministry will seize such products found in the local market," she was quoted as saying by the Star daily.

Noraini advised local consumers to be aware of the types of items which have been banned, and to dispose of any existing items they might already have.

She said the government would also take random food samples from across the country to check for the presence of melamine, adding that those found guilty of distributing food items containing the chemical face a fine of 100,000 ringgit (30,300 dollars) or 10 years' jail.

Melamine is used to make plastics and fertilizer and has been found in instant formula and other milk products in China. Suppliers are believed to be responsible for tainting watered-down products with the chemical in order to mask protein deficiency.

Melamine-tainted milk in China has killed at least four babies and sickened about 53,000 infants. (dpa)