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Friday 28th October 2016

China detain 22 in milk scandal

29th September 2008

Authorities in China have detained dozens of people after raids on dairy farms suspected of adding the industrial chemical melamine to milk used in infant formula powder and other foodstuffs.


While official media gave full play to the crackdown, in which top managers at New Zealand-invested joint venture Sanlu and other companies, together with local Communist Party officials, have already been fired, rights groups warned that the government was already suppressing media coverage of the scandal.

At least four babies have died after developing kidney problems, and a further 54,000 have fallen ill with kidney stones. A further 10,000 cases are expected to be reported around the country.

China's iconic "White Rabbit" milk-candies have been ordered off the shelves, Chinese-made bars of Cadbury's Dairy Milk have been recalled, and governments have moved to ban all imports of dairy products from China.

China's tainted milk scandal came to light after infant milk formula sold by up to 22 Chinese companies - including Sanlu Group Co, the Chinese partner of New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra - was found to be contaminated with melamine.

Xinhua news agency said police in Hebei province seized more than 480 pounds (220 kilograms) of melamine, which had been produced in underground plants and sold to breeding farms and purchasing stations.

Of the 22 detainees, 19 were managers of pastures, breeding farms and purchasing stations.

But China Human Rights Defenders, a network of domestic and foreign human rights activists, said the Communist Party's powerful propaganda department had tightened its grip on media freedom to contain rising nationwide outrage.

Hospitals have been besieged by hundreds of anxious parents, who are also visiting lawyers in droves to plan class-action suits against the companies and officials concerned.

Many medical facilities have offered free health checks for babies and toddlers, but parents have warned that the authorities will try to cover up the full extent of the crisis.

The number of Chinese women who rely on breast milk alone to feed their newborns has dropped as mothers go back to work, under peer pressure to use formula out of need for greater flexibility and freedom.

Such economic pressures have taken China's tainted milk crisis to every corner of the country, affecting affluent middle-class families as well as poorer children of rural families and migrant workers. 


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