Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Killer baby formula sold to Burma, Bangladesh

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- The scope of China's contaminated baby formula case grew Wednesday as officials reported the death of a third infant and a spike in those made ill by it.

At the same time, China's largest producer of milk, Mengniu Dairy Group, announced the recall of three batches of formula made in January. Testing showed they were contaminated.

More than 6,200 babies have been sickened by the tainted milk powder, said Li Changjiang, China's director of quarantine and inspection, up from about 1,200 on Tuesday.

More than 1,300 infants are hospitalized. The illnesses include malnutrition, kidney stones and acute renal failure.

Originally Chinese officials said all of the tainted formula had remained in China, other than a small amount that was exported to Taiwan. But Li said Wednesday that the powder has also been shipped to five other nations, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, Yemen, Chad and Burundi.

Recalls of the products by the Yashili and Suokang companies have been made, according to Li.

Of China's 175 baby milk powder production companies, 66 have already stopped production, Li said. Investigators are testing samples at the rest.

Two brothers who sold fresh milk used to produce contaminated baby milk powder were arrested by Chinese investigators Monday and could face death if convicted, according to China Daily, the state-run newspaper.

The raw milk had been watered down and a chemical added to fool quality checks, the newspaper said.

The scandal prompted China agricultural officials to start a nationwide inspection of its dairy industry.

While 19 people were detained for questioning, the only ones arrested so far are the brothers who supplied about three tons of milk each day to the Sanlu Group, which manufactured the baby formula, the paper said.

Investigators said the brothers confessed to watering down the raw milk and mixing in tripolycyanamide, also known as melamine. They said they did it to recover losses suffered when the factory rejected earlier milk shipments, the paper reported.

The brothers are charged with producing and selling toxic and hazardous food, which carries a possible death penalty, the paper said.

Health experts say ingesting melamine can lead to kidney stones, urinary tract ulcers, and eye and skin irritation.

The chemical is commonly used in coatings and laminates, wood adhesives, fabric coatings, ceiling tiles and flame retardants.

Sanlu Group has recalled more than 8,200 tons of the tainted formula following reports of sickened babies, Xinhua said.

Beijing (dpa) - Two Chinese firms where tests found tainted milk products had exported baby formula milk powder to five countries including Bangladesh and Burma, the government said on Wednesday.

The Suokang and Yashili companies had started to recall their exported milk powder products, which were also sent to Yemen, Burundi and Gabon, said Li Changjiang, the head of the State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

An earlier report said no melamine was found after experts tested samples of Yashili's milk powder earmarked for export.

Suokang was based in the eastern city of Qingdao and Yashili in the southern province of Guangdong, Li told reporters.

Both firms were among the 22 companies where the ministry found 69 batches of milk powder tainted with melamine, he said.

Three babies have died, 158 children have developed "serious kidney problems" and 6,244 infants have been sickened by baby formula contaminated with melamine, health officials said on Wednesday.

Police in the northern province of Hebei have charged four people in connection with the largest case of melamine contamination and detained 22 others, state media said.

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