Tens of thousands of Chinese infants have fallen ill with kidney problems after consuming milk that had been mixed with melamine, an industrial compound used to cheat quality tests. At least four children have died.
Tests found melamine in a variety of Chinese-made products from milk and chocolate bars to yoghurt exported around the world, including egg products in South Korea, leading to items being pulled from shop shelves.
"We solemnly apologise to consumers and distributors. We solemnly state here that my company had never purchased melamine or added melamine to feeds or products," Han Wei, of the egg supplier Hanwei Group in Dalian province, said.
Han's remarks were carried by Hong Kong's TVB station.
Han said his company discovered the chemical in chicken feed in September and had immediately stopped using it. He did not say where the feed originated.
It has since emerged that cyromazine, a derivative of melamine, is widely used in pesticides and animal feed in China, and experts say it is absorbed in plants as melamine and that it is already in the human food chain.
No one knows how much melamine is absorbed into raw foods like meat and vegetables, although animal tests in the U.S. concluded in 2007 that consuming "pork, chicken, fish and eggs from animals that had inadvertently been fed animal feed contaminated with melamine...was very unlikely to pose a human health risk."
Hong Kong promised to expand its melamine tests to cover vegetables and meat, and experts hope that these analyses will shed some light.
China has been swept by a series of food- and product-safety scandals involving goods as diverse as toys, tyres, toothpaste, pet food, fish, beans, dumplings and baby cribs.
It was not immediately clear how the eggs passed tests, if any, in Dalian. Chinese officials this month said the melamine health scare was over.
Premier Wen Jiabao vowed China would do all it could to bring the quality of Chinese food products up to international standard.
From the November 10, 2008, Prepared Foods e-Flash