Page last updated at 08:04 GMT, Saturday, 18 October 2008 09:04 UK

China takes blame in milk scandal

Chinese parents with their baby sick after consuming tainted milk, Beijing, 16/10/08,
The contaminated milk killed four babies and left tens of thousands sick

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said the government is partly responsible for the tainted milk scandal which has left thousands of children sick.

In a rare interview with Science magazine, Mr Wen said the government felt "great sorrow" about the crisis, which also killed four children.

He said while the problems were with a private company, the government had not properly supervised the dairy industry.

Milk powder was contaminated with the industrial chemical, melamine.

Suppliers are believed to have added the banned chemical, normally used in plastics, to watered-down milk in order to make it appear higher in protein.

About 53,000 children became ill. Most of the victims were under two-years-old.

Firms collapse

"We feel great sorrow about the milk incident," Mr Wen was quoted as saying in the magazine, which is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"We feel that although problems occurred at the company, the government also has a responsibility."

Correspondents say domestic and export markets in products containing Chinese milk powder have stymied, and scores of dairy firms in the country have collapsed.

Mr Wen said that clear standards and testing requirements were needed in all the steps of making milk - the production of raw milk, collection, transportation, processing and making formula.

"I once again solemnly emphasize that it is absolutely impermissible to sacrifice people's lives and health in exchange for temporary economic development," he said.

"Food, all food, must meet international standards."

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