Hong Kong food inspectors have found eggs imported from northeast China to be contaminated with high levels of melamine, the toxic industrial additive at the heart of an adulteration scandal over Chinese milk products.
The findings, reported over the weekend, have raised new concerns that a far wider array of China-produced foods than previously believed could be contaminated by melamine, which has already sickened more than 50,000 children in China and led to at least four deaths.
Scientists in China worry that in addition to adulterated dairy supplies, melamine also may have been intentionally added to animal feed in China, tainting chicken and possibly fish and hog feed, which could result in poisonous meat and seafood supplies, according to a report published Sunday in the South China Morning Post.
China is struggling to cope with a milk scandal that has devastated the country's fast-growing dairy industry and led to a global recall of foods made with Chinese dairy products, including pizza, biscuits, yogurt and other goods.
The Chinese government, which first reported melamine-tainted dairy products in mid-September, has vowed to strengthen food safety measures and severely punish those involved in adulterating food.
The government accused rogue dairy producers and middlemen with intentionally spiking dairy supplies with melamine to save money, using the chemical, which is used to produce plastic and fertilizer, as a cheap filler that can artificially inflate protein readings.
In September, Beijing ordered a massive recall of dairy products and arrested dozens of people suspected of illegally using melamine to adulterate food.
There were also indications over the weekend that the contamination may have sickened far more children in China than reported. Health officials said Saturday that a broad survey of homes in Beijing had found that nearly a quarter of the 300,000 families with children younger than 3, about 74,000 families, had a child that had been fed tainted milk.