Languages
Page last updated at 07:05 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 08:05 UK

China milk poisoning cases rise

Chinese customers queue to return suspect milk powder brands purchased at a supermarket in Hefei, Anhui province on 19/09/08
Chinese and Hong Kong authorities have recalled tainted products

Nearly 53,000 children in China are now known to have been made ill by milk powder contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine, officials say.

About 13,000 of the victims remain in hospital, the health ministry added. Four children have died.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has visited sick children in hospitals and apologised for the food scandal.

Most victims are under two years old, and at least 104 of those in hospital are in a serious condition.

The health ministry announced the new figures Monday. It said the sick children had consumed milk powder from the Sanlu Group, the company where the contamination was first revealed two weeks ago.

Local media reports suggested the new number was the result of health officials' checks of hospital records from May this year to trace the origins of the contamination.

Advertisement

Children are checked in hospital

At least 22 other companies have since become involved in the scandal, and milk products made by the Yili, Mengniu and other groups have been recalled from supermarket shelves.

In Hong Kong, the two main supermarket chains, Wellcome and Park'n'Shop, are now recalling products made by Nestle, Dutch Lady and Mr Brown.

A local newspaper, the Chinese language Apple Daily, had conducted an unofficial test on Nestle pure milk and found traces of melamine. The result was later confirmed by Hong Kong government tests.

"Based on the low level detected, normal consumption will not pose major health effects. However, it is not advisable for small children to consumer the milk product," a spokesman for the government's Centre for Food Safety said.

Nestle said in a statement late on Sunday that it is "confident" that none of its Chinese-made products are made with milk contaminated with melamine. It said it "has the same stringent quality control system in place in its factories in China as in any other part of the world."

A three-year old girl in Hong Kong has been diagnosed with a kidney stone after drinking two glasses of Yili high calcium low-fat milk product for more than a year. Her symptoms were described as "mild". Tests are continuing on other infants in the territory.

In Taiwan, shops shelves carrying the Mr Brown brand of "three-in-one" coffee, in which coffee is mixed with sugar and milk, have been cleared.

In Singapore, the Chinese-made White Rabbit milk sweet has been found to carry traces of melamine and is being recalled, officials there said. Recalls of Chinese-made dairy products are now under way in Japan, Malaysia, and Brunei as well.

'Trust us'

Mr Wen said he felt "extremely guilty" about the health scandal.

"I sincerely apologise to all of you," he said, after visiting sick children in hospital.

"What we are doing now is to ensure that nothing like this will ever happen again, and we are not only talking about milk. We will never let the same situation repeat with any kind of product.

"We can understand why parents have lost confidence (in hospitals). After the incident, there was a grave disturbance in my heart.

"Please trust us. We will empty the shelves of any milk product found to have a problem and destroy it so it cannot show up anywhere else."

Mr Wen also threatened harsh punishments for those found responsible for the contamination.

"Public confidence can only be rebuilt on merciless punishment," he said. "None of those companies lacking professional ethics or social morals will be let off."

Melamine is used in making plastics and is high in nitrogen, which makes products appear to have a higher protein count. Health experts say that ingesting small amounts does no harm, but sustained use can cause kidney stones and renal failure, especially among the young.


SEE ALSO
China tainted milk scandal widens
19 Sep 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Bitter taste over China baby milk
17 Sep 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Hong Kong recalls dairy products
18 Sep 08 |  Asia-Pacific
China arrests 12 in milk scandal
18 Sep 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese to tighten dairy testing
17 Sep 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese baby milk toll escalates
17 Sep 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Anger over China milk scandal
17 Sep 08 |  Asia-Pacific

RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific