By ALEXA OLESEN
BEIJING (AP) -- A cancer-causing toxin linked to mildewed cattle feed has been found in baby formula in China, an official said Monday, the latest quality problem to plague the nation's dairy industry since a 2008 tainted formula scandal that caused six babies' deaths.
Aflatoxin was found in five batches of Nanshan Bywise brand formula made last year by Hunan Ava Dairy Industry Co. in Hunan province's Nanshan city that were being sold in Guangzhou, said a man surnamed Gong from the Guangzhou Administration of Industry and Commerce General Office.
The five problem batches were boxes, bags or tins of powder weighing between 400 and 900 grams and manufactured between July and December last year. It wasn't known if any of the problem formula was fed to babies. A low dose of aflatoxin is not considered harmful, but high doses are linked to cancer, especially in the liver.
The contamination was first reported by the administration in a statement posted online Friday. A woman who answered the phone at a Nanshan Bywise service hotline but who refused to give her name, said the company had no immediate comment on the case.
The woman referred calls to food safety officials in Changsha, the capital of Hunan. A man who answered the phone at the Changsha Food Safety Office said the person in charge of the investigation was not available for comment.
The state-run Global Times newspaper on Monday quoted a Nanshan Bywise employee who refused to give her name saying that the brand had yet to receive test results on the formula from the Guangzhou authority. She said the company would not speak about it before the news was verified.
Aflatoxin is produced by a fungus that can grow on hay or grains and appear in the milk of animals that eat the mildewed feed. It previously has been detected in milk from China's biggest dairy company, Mengniu, and another company, Changfu.
Last month, another industry leader, Yili Industrial Group, announced it had recalled infant formula because it was tainted with "unusual" levels of mercury.
China's food chain, and especially the dairy industry, has come under increased scrutiny in recent years because of a series of safety problems.
In 2008, at least six babies died and 300,000 became sick after being feed milk powder tainted with melamine. The industrial chemical is illegally added to watered-down dairy products to make their protein content appear normal.
A dairy farmer and a milk salesman were executed and 19 other people were jailed for their role in that scandal.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.