HARTFORD, Conn. – An industrial chemical blamed for sickening thousands of infants in China was found in candy in four Connecticut stores this week, a state official said Wednesday.
Days after contaminated White Rabbit Creamy Candy was found in California, Connecticut Consumer Protection Commissioner Jerry Farrell Jr. said tests found melamine in bags of the candy sold at two New Haven stores, a West Hartford market and an East Haven store.
"We're concerned, obviously, there may have been bags sold of these before we got to them," Farrell said.
Anyone who has the candy should destroy it, Farrell said.
The contamination has been blamed for the deaths of four children and kidney ailments among 54,000 others. More than 13,000 children have been hospitalized and 27 people arrested in connection with the tainting.
Melamine, which is high in nitrogen, is used to make plastics and fertilizers and experts say some amount of the chemical may be transferred from the environment during food processing. But in China's case, suppliers trying to boost output are believed to have diluted their milk, adding melamine because its nitrogen content can fool tests aimed at verifying protein content.
Melamine can cause kidney stones, leading to kidney failure. Infants are particularly vulnerable.
Melamine has been associated with contaminated infant formula and other Chinese products containing milk protein.
On Wednesday, the Chinese government identified 15 more Chinese dairy companies as producing milk products contaminated with melamine, bringing the total to 20 companies. At least 100 batches of milk powder have been found to contain the chemical, according to data on the food safety administration's Web site.
Last week, California health officials announced it discovered traces of melamine in White Rabbit candy it tested. Queensway Foods Company Inc. of California distributed the candy and says it is recalling it.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working with state and local governments to check for and test products that could possibly be contaminated with melamine. Last Friday, the FDA warned consumers not to consume White Rabbit Candy and Mr. Brown coffee products because of possible melamine contamination.
The vanilla-flavored candy has also been pulled from shelves in Hawaii, Asia and Britain, and tests in Singapore and New Zealand last week found White Rabbit sweets tainted with melamine. The Shanghai-based maker of the candy, Guan Sheng Yuan Co., said last week it was halting production of the sticky, taffy-like confection, an iconic brand beloved by generations of Chinese.
The candy is sold in more than 50 countries throughout Asia and the world, including most of the Chinatowns in the United States. Overseas sales have reached $160 million over the past five years.