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Two Arrests in Widening Chinese Formula Scandal

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, September 15, 2008 12:15 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Chinese Products, Melamine, China, Lead Poisoning, Lead Toys, FDA, Baby Formula, Infants

Two are arrested in Chinese formula contamination that's killed two infants.

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IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ baby boy and bottle/ author: Matthias Sebulke

 

Two brothers suspected of adding the toxic chemical melamine to baby formula have been arrested.  They are accusing of adding the dangerous chemical to the milk at a milk collection center in China.

Chinese investigators say the melamine, used to make plastics and fertilizers, may have been added along with water. Melamine measures as protein, while water increases the volume of the milk. The brothers allegedly sold about three tons of contaminated milk a day, according to police.

Two babies in China have died and more than 1,200 have been sickened by contaminated milk powder. 340 babies remain hospitalized with 53 in serious condition.

In China, health inspection teams are visiting farms and processing centers to find any violators. More than 10,000 tons of milk powder have been recalled and police have also detained 19 people after investigating China’s 175 baby formula factories.   

A widening contaminated baby formula scandal in that country is highlighting the insufficiencies of China’s regulatory system, which in recent years has sent lead-ladened toys, toothpaste, deficient tires and heparin to U.S. consumers.

Melamine was the ingredient in dog food that was blended in China last year and sold to U.S. stores. Thousands of pets died or were sickened.  

The Sanlu Group has been ordered to stop production of its products. Sanlu makes low-cost baby formula and is one of China’s biggest dairy producers.  

The contaminated formula may have been distributed for months. Some parents have been complaining of problems since March, the New York Times reports.  Others noticed their babies’ urine was discolored after drinking the milk, the BBC reports. 

The boy died in May and an 8-month-old girl died in July. Most of the children have suffered from kidney problems and kidney stones.

"As many as 10,000 infants may have drunk the contaminated Sanlu milk powder," vice health minister Ma Shaowei told the BBC.  

Some of the tainted formula may have made it to the U.S. in the Sanlu formula that is sometimes imported in underground or black markets. Even though it is illegal to sell Chinese baby formula to the U.S., inspectors are checking ethic markets that serve the Asian community.  Infant formula from China should not be served to any infants, a FDA Health Advisory warns.   

Improving oversight of China’s system of food safety is the subject of promises by Community Party leaders, who promised crackdowns after the dog food scandal. The question now is why a recall was not ordered sooner.

A New Zealand dairy conglomerate, Fonterra, owns 43 percent share in Sanlu. That country’s Prime Minister Helen Clark said Fonterra officials had been trying for weeks to get an official recall, only to be met with resistance from the Chinese government.

In 2004, 97 local officials were found responsible for making fake milk powder that killed more than dozen babies and sickened 200 in China.  #


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