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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 April, 2004, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
China 'fake milk' scandal deepens
Baby shown on Chinese state-controlled TV
Malnourishment leaves some infants' heads appearing large
A baby milk scandal which has killed at least 13 infants in China appears to be widening.

State television says infants who were fed fake formula have been treated for malnutrition in a second province.

An investigation is under way, and police in Anhui province have already detained five wholesalers of fake baby milk, according to Xinhua news agency.

Around 200 babies in Anhui alone were fed formula milk of little nutritional value, media reports said.

An initial inquiry has shown that 45 types of substandard powder were on sale in Fuyang City, Anhui, produced by 141 factories across China, Xinhua said.

Chinese television said fake powder and malnourished babies were also found in the neighbouring province of Shandong.

Reporters there found 10 brands of fake milk powder on sale.

State media reported that at least 13 infants had died as a result of the scam, though there are fears that more deaths could yet be reported.

Doctors say the baby milk scandal is responsible for the worst malnourishment they have seen in 20 years.

Local media in Fuyang printed pictures of one six-month-old baby boy who weighed less than he did at birth.

They said some of the babies developed what doctors called "big head disease", where infants' heads appear abnormally large in comparison to their bodies.

It was not clear if the counterfeit powder included any toxic ingredients, but some children were reported to have died within three days of being fed the fake milk.

An analysis of one formula found it contained as little as one-sixth the required amount of protein and other nutrients needed for a baby's proper development, reports said.

Local authorities have now announced they will give free medical treatment to the surviving babies.

A BBC correspondent in Beijing, Louisa Lim, says counterfeit goods are often on sale in rural areas, where supervision is slack and customers poorly informed.

But in this case the human cost of this get-rich-quick scheme has sparked widespread anger.

Our correspondent says an investigation will be held into why the Fuyang city government failed to act despite knowing about the problem last May.

The BBC's Luisa Baldini
"Chinese doctors are calling it big-head disease"

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