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Reassuring tactics?

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James Reynolds | 12:56 UK time, Friday, 19 September 2008

Right now, China might want to remember Cordelia Gummer.

In 1990, Britain was worried about infected beef and "mad cow disease". The government insisted that no-one need panic - Britain's beef was fine.

John GummerIn order to make the point in a dramatic way, Britain's Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister John Gummer decided to feed his four-year-old daughter Cordelia a beefburger in front of the cameras. It was a slightly curious, much criticised and derided tactic.

I wonder if the Communist Party's been thinking of anything similar in recent days. The food scare which began with tainted baby milk powder last week has been getting worse and worse.

On Friday, everyone here woke up to find that more dairy products had been affected - including the normal milk that you or I would buy in the shops. The government insists that most milk is safe to drink - but that doesn't reassure very many people.

This afternoon, at the Tesco supermarket in Beijing, milk was still on sale. But most shoppers avoided the dairy counter. Parents have continued to take their babies to hospitals to be checked for kidney stones.

Perhaps China's Health Minister, Chen Zhu, may decide to invite the media to his house to watch him and his family drink pints of milk and eat ice cream. But maybe not. It didn't really work when John Gummer tried it.


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