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China Contaminated Milk Scandal Widens


A third infant has died in China from contaminated milk and more than 6,000 made sick. The scandal has forced nationwide recalls of milk products by China's top dairy producers, including some exported to five countries. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

China's Health Minister Chen Zhu on Wednesday said there are now 6,244 reported cases of infants made sick and, among those, three have died from drinking tainted milk formula.

Speaking at a news briefing broadcast live on national television, he said the numbers could go up as more parents take their children to hospitals.

Chen says there are now 1,327 infant patients in the hospital. He says 158 are suffering from acute kidney failure.

The scandal over tainted milk powder surfaced after large numbers of babies were hospitalized suffering from kidney stones. All had been fed formula made with powdered milk.

China's largest powdered milk producer, Sanlu Dairy, was found to be using milk laced with melamine, an industrial chemical that can make food appear higher in protein.

Chinese officials said an investigation of 109 powdered milk producers found that 20 percent of them added melamine to their products, including China's largest milk producer Mengniu.

Li Changjiang, head of China's quality watchdog., says starting today they will station 1,400 inspection teams amounting to nearly 5,000 people at all dairy producing enterprises. He says they will make on-the-spot inspections and conduct strict and effective oversight.

Li says his department has ordered a recall of all suspect products, including goods from two companies that exported to Bangladesh, Yemen, Burma, Gabon, and Burundi.

The New Zealand dairy company Fonterra is part-owner of Sanlu and says it raised concerns about tainted milk weeks ago but Sanlu was slow to respond.

New Zealand's prime minister says the Chinese government began investigating only after she raised the issue through official channels.

The manager of Sanlu and four local officials in Hebei, where Sanlu is based, have been fired over the scandal.

Chinese officials have vowed to inspect all dairy products in the country and say they may for the first time begin regular testing for illegal additives such as melamine.

This is not the first time milk powder has killed babies in China. In 2004 at least 12 infants died from drinking fake milk powder.

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