The European Commission has agreed to clamp down on the import of all Chinese baby foods containing milk and to test other products that contain a certain proportion of milk powder.
The EU is proposing tighter regulations on Chinese dairy products
China is currently in the grip of a health scare over tainted milk. Thousands of children have been hospitalized after drinking milk formula laced with melamine, a chemical used to make plastics and fertilizers. Four Chinese babies have died of kidney disease induced by the substance.
The European Commission announced today a total ban on baby food products from China that contain any proportion of milk.
All imports of other products consisting of more than 15 percent milk powder will also have to be tested under the new rules, which are due to come into force Friday (September 26) after discussions among the EU's 27 member nations.
Testing chocolate, candy and cookies
53,000 children have been treated after consuming tainted milk powder
The EU does not actually import dairy products from China, but it does import goods that may contain milk, including chocolate, candy and cookies.
European Commission spokeswoman Nina Papadoulaki said foods which are already on the EU market will be subject to random testing. The tests to establish whether any consignment is contaminated can take two to three days, she said.
Earlier Thursday, EU food safety experts determined there was only a limited risk in Europe from food imports from China, but the European Commission said it was taking precautionary measures in the face of the growing health scare.
Number of international bans
German dairies have received some inquiries from China
More than a dozen countries have already banned or recalled Chinese dairy products, including India, Cambodia and South Korea.
The World Health Organization and UNICEF issued a joint statement saying the deliberate contamination of food for infants and young children was "particularly deplorable." China's quality watchdog announced rules intended to stop such scandals in the future.
Nitrogen-rich melamine can be added to substandard or watered-down milk to beat quality checks, which often gauge the amount of protein in the milk by measuring nitrogen levels.
Some Chinese producers are beginning to look abroad for milk supplies. On Wednesday the head of the milk division at the German Farmers' Association (DVB), Rudolf Schmidt, told news agency AFP that over the past few days they had received the first inquiries from China.