Through a New Year text message sent to millions of mobile phone subscribers, a group of Chinese dairy firms has apologised to people for the country's biggest milk scandal that killed at least six babies and made 290,000 ill.
"We are deeply sorry for the harm we have brought to children and to society," said the message by the dairy firms led by the Sanlu Group, which is at the centre of the tainted milk controversy.
"We offer our sincere apology and plead for forgiveness," the message said.
In their message, the firms also promised to compensate sickened children and cover all expenses for any after-effects of the melamine-contaminated milk. The 22 firms have established a compensation fund for victims.
Melamine, an industrial compound used in plastic and fertiliser, was added to milk to cheat protein tests.
The companies also pledged to get rid of all the substandard products and open themselves up to the public.
Sanlu's former board chairwoman and general manager Tian Wenhua and three other executives stood trial in Hebei province Wednesday and pleaded guilty to producing and selling fake or sub-standard products.
The scandal was exposed in September 2008.
Medical organisations across the country had provided free diagnosis and treatment to affected babies and would continue to do so until no new cases were reported, according to the health ministry.