Tuesday, September 16, 2008

China toxic milk victim count expected to rise

Shijiazhuang: The number of Chinese infants found threatened by toxic milk powder is likely to rise as the search for victims spreads, state media reported on Tuesday, with the government facing rising public anger.

Over 1,200 infants have been diagnosed with kidney illness after drinking adulterated powdered milk made by the Sanlu Group.

Two have died and more than 50 are in a serious condition from kidney stones caused by a banned chemical, melamine, added to milk before processing in an apparent bid to fool inspectors.

"Their number could rise as the search for more infants fed Sanlu milk food spreads across the country's rural areas," the China Daily reported. "The number could rise sharply in coming days as more parents take their children for medical check-ups," the report added, citing Health Minister Chen Zhu.



Melamine is rich in nitrogen, an element often used to measure protein, and can be used to disguise diluted milk.

Twelve months ago, Sanlu was lauded by Chinese state television as a model of reliable quality. But now it and the government's efforts to ensure product safety face searing public anger and questions about the effectiveness of reforms.

New Zealand action

Sanlu, 43 per cent owned by New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra, last week halted production after investigators announced they had found the problem.

Local Chinese officials acted last week only after the New Zealand government contacted Beijing, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said on Monday.

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