Across China, 6,244 babies are sick (up from 59 cases last week), 158 are suffering acute kidney failure and three are dead. All of them were fed milk powder made with an industrial raw material.
In the latest food safety crisis in the world’s factory, Chinese inspectors have found 69 samples from 22 dairy companies — including China’s biggest dairy firm — also contaminated with a chemical called melamine used in the plastic, leather and fertiliser industry.
Two of the 22 dairy firms which export to Bangladesh, Myanmar, Yemen, Burundi and Gabon, began a product recall.
“China has made good progress in improving its food safety supervision system,’’ Dr Hans Troedsson, the World Health Organisation China representative, told HT in a written response. “But incidents such as these illustrate how urgent the matter is and how much the reforms are needed.”
China, the world’s second-largest market for baby milk powder — would have faced an international embarrassment if this news had broken before the Games began on August 8.
The first complaints emerged in March. But despite recent scandals over toxic toothpaste to toys made in China — and a contaminated milk powder scam that killed 13 babies in 2004 — officials reacted just this month.
Last week, officials said that thousands of tonnes of the Sanlu Group’s baby milk powder produced before August 6 could be toxic.
Sanlu is partially owned by a New Zealand major Fonterra that knew of the problem in August, and later informed the New Zealand government. Milk dealers allegedly mixed melamine with fresh milk to make it seem high-protein.
On Wednesday, Li Changjiang, the head of China’s quality watchdog, said China will modify baby food standards to test for melamine. All dairy products will be tested for the chemical.