Tainted Milk Kills 4 Babies in China

Sixty-nine batches of milk powder were found to contain melamine, and not just in Sanlu, but in 22 brands of milk powder (20 percent of all brands) including China's two largest milk powder producers and their two biggest dairies.

There is concern that some of the tainted formula may have been exported to Myanmar, Bangladesh, Yemen, Gambon and Burundi, and Hong Kong has recalled a popular brand of frozen yogurt popsicle that contains melamine.

The FDA in the United States issued an alert that some of the tainted powder could have been illegally imported to America, but after visits to hundreds of specialty groceries, they have yet to find any. Perhaps this provides some relief for American parents, but Chinese parents now have no idea what is safe to feed their children.

A History of Product Quality Issues

The Chinese government has set up makeshift clinics around the country, where parents can take their children for tests and treatment, free of charge. The Health Minister has dispatched 5,000 inspectors to further test milk powder, the first mandated check for toxic chemicals in baby formula.

But a Washington Post analysis found that nine of the 22 brands that contained melamine were exempt from inspections.

And some of wondered why were these checks were not already in place.

It is a familiar question which China has yet to answer. This is not the first time the country has faced deadly product quality scandals. Four years ago, a milk powder brand was found to have sold formula that had little or no nutritional value. This led to deaths of 12 infants in the poorest province of China and sickened many more.

The traditional way in China is to pick the culprit and lay down the law. It has been less than a year since the former head of China's State Food and Drug Administration was convicted and then executed for failing to do his job to prevent unsafe drugs from entering the marketplace.

This was after several other scandals embarrassed the Chinese government and the "Made in China" label.

Last year, pet food that was also tainted with melamine was exported to the United States and killed dozens of pets. Shortly after that, Chinese toys were found to contain lead and were recalled from the United States. There were also problems with tainted toothpaste and toxic fish, after which China promised to improve testing and safety procedures.

There is no doubt that heads will roll over this. But the bigger question, critics charge, is what safeguards will be put in place to ensure that these deadly problems will be prevented in the future?

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