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Soya cappuccino in Chinatown

world Updated: Sep 26, 2008 00:04 IST
Reshma Patil
Reshma Patil
Hindustan Times
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Dear headmasters, administrators, parents and guests,’’ said a notice e-mailed last week from a major catering company that serves a Beijing-based international school.

“In (the) absence of any clear and reliable analysis, or statement from relevant official departments, we hereby take the decision to withdraw fresh milk products and yogurt from our offer,’’ said the email, shared with HT by an Indian parent whose child no longer drinks milk at school.

This month, four infants died and the record of children sickened by toxic made-in-China milk powder rose from 59 to 54,000. The world turned lactose-intolerant to dairy products imported from China.

Inside the tea nation, that developed a taste for milk only as incomes rose with its economy, there is a scramble for safer alternatives.

At Starbucks, soya milk is the accidental star of the US coffee chain’s hasty marketing, as milk and non-fat milk are off the menu. Here’s a day’s special from the cafe’s blackboard: Vanilla Soya Latte, no dairy. At the cash counter, a new notice says: We sincerely recommend our signature espresso with rich soya milk. No dairy in our soya milk.”

Indian expats in China are also buying soya milk or costlier imported milk. An Indian restaurant in Beijing, where kheer is a staple item of the lunch buffet, hastily switched milk brands after products from 22 firms — including a brand the restaurant ordered — were found contaminated.

Last week, 10 per cent of the liquid milk sold by dairy companies including China’s top three, was found laced with melamine. The same toxin poisoned thousands of pet cats and dogs fed tainted pet food sold in the US last year. Now, it has turned up in Chinese candy, ice cream, yogurt, and buns.

So an enterprising mom has advertised her breast milk online because babies don’t like soya milk. Supermarkets have empty shelves where domestic milk products were stocked.

Bloggers and citizens are wondering about a possible official cover-up. On Tuesday, an official probe blamed the ‘cover-up’ on China’s biggest baby milk powder producer, Sanlu, which received complaints since December 2007.

Soya cappuccino, anyone?