Page last updated at 11:12 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 12:12 UK

Chinese milk fears spread in Asia

A mother and a father hold their babies as they wait for treatment in a children's hospital in Beijing on September 23, 2008
More than 50,000 children in China have been reported ill

Countries across Asia are testing Chinese dairy products as fears spread over melamine-tainted milk - and some have banned these products outright.

Four Chinese children died after drinking contaminated milk and 13,000 others remain in hospital.

Four children in Hong Kong have now been diagnosed with kidney stones after drinking milk from the mainland.

The company at the centre of the scare, Sanlu, failed to report the health problems for months, state media say.

Sanlu began receiving complaints about sick children as early as last December but did not report the issue to the authorities until early September, according to a CCTV report citing an official investigation.

The report appears to be the first official admission that news of the health scare was deliberately suppressed.

Products pulled

Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Bangladesh, Gabon, Burundi and the Philippines are all either testing Chinese diary products or pulling them from shops.

Chinese customers queue to return suspect milk powder brands purchased at a supermarket in Hefei, Anhui province on 19/09/08
Many countries have recalled products which could be affected

US coffee giant Starbucks has stopped serving drinks with milk in many Chinese outlets and many other large companies are testing products in some Asian locations or pulling them straight from the shelves.

Malaysia has expanded its ban on dairy products to include candies, chocolates and all other foods containing milk, an official there has confirmed.

In Japan, one major supplier has pulled buns made from Chinese milk from supermarket shelves and a petition signed by regional governors urges the central government to suspend imports of all Chinese dairy products.

Parents concerned

The problem was first revealed two weeks ago, when milk powder from the Sanlu Group was found to contain melamine, an industrial chemical.

For all the parents' anger then, you still come across a bedrock faith in this country's top leaders
James Reynolds
BBC Beijing correspondent

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 China and many other countries.

Many parents across Asia are concerned that their children may have drunk the affected milk.

"I'm still worried about my child," said Mary Yu, a Hong Kong mother who took her 3-year-old son for hospital tests on Tuesday, along with dozens of other parents.

"I want to have a thorough check to play it safe," she told the Associated Press.

Melamine is used in making plastics and is high in nitrogen, which makes products appear to have a higher protein content.

Health experts say that ingesting small amounts does no harm but sustained use can cause kidney stones and renal failure, especially among the young.

One result of the scare is that wet nurses around China are now in huge demand, according to the Chinese media.

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


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CNN China's milk scare spreads globally - 1 hr ago
Straits Times Melamine in 5 more items - 1 hr ago
Guardian Unlimited13,000 babies in hospital from China's tainted milk - 1 hr ago
NBC 10 At Least 12 Countries Ban Chinese Dairy - 3 hrs ago
San Francisco Chronicle The reach of China's tainted milk scandal - 3 hrs ago
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