Chinese food companies have indicated that exports have plummeted in the wake of the melamine scandal due to a slump in demand and tougher safety inspections.

The China Dairy Association said exports of milk powder dropped from around 15,000 tons in September to just 48 tons in October following revelations of melamine contamination throughout the dairy industry. 

Melamine-contaminated milk powder was linked to the death of six infants and thousands more needed to be treated for kidney stones caused by the chemical.

China mainly exports milk powder to South-East Asia and Central Asia.

The safety scandal also raised fears around the world about Chinese-made food. An international sales manager at a Beijing producer of bakery products told just-food: "Our exports have stopped because of panic among Japanese and US consumers over Chinese food." The company uses milk powder in its biscuits. 

She added that inspections by US and Japanese food agencies have intensified significantly. "They are now checking things that they didn't check before."

A Fujian confectionery company said it was stopping exports to India because the increased inspections were adding too much time to deliveries.

"Both the Chinese and Indian governments are carrying out very stringent inspections. Not many companies are exporting now because it's just too much trouble. It would add two more weeks to the delivery date," a representative who did not want to be named told just-food. 

Tong Xun, import-export manager at Liang Feng Food, another confectionery company, told the China Daily this week that his firm had lost a fifth of its annual exports since the melamine scandal.