6 Chinese babies dead & 300,000 sickened by melamine milk

China has admitted that six babies died and 300,000  became ill after drinking milk made from powder which had been poisoned by melamine.

The scandal has been met with public dismay and anger, particularly among parents who feel the government breached their trust after their children were sickened or died from drinking infant formula authorities had certified as safe.

The Health Ministry’s revised death toll is twice the previous figure, while the new count of 294,000 babies who suffered urinary problems from drinking contaminated infant formula is a six-fold increase from the last tally in September.

“Most of the sickened children received outpatient treatment for only small amounts of sand-like kidney stones found in their urinary systems, while some patients had to be hospitalized for the illness,” the ministry said in a statement late Monday.

The latest statistics show that China’s communist leaders are slowly acknowledging the scale of China’s worst food safety scare in years. During such crises, the government often deliberately releases information piecemeal in part to keep from feeding public anger.

Thousands of parents have been clamouring for compensation for their sickened and dead children. The release of the figures raises the question of whether the Health Ministry is getting closer to finalizing a compensation scheme.

“The new figures are more realistic and objective than previous figures. We knew the previous ones could not have been accurate,” said Chang Boyang, a Beijing lawyer who has provided legal assistance to families of children who became ill.

Six deaths from such a serious and widespread problem still seems very low, although at least it is an indication that authorities are being more open about the scale of the scandal.

Morning Report said that Sanlu, one of the companies most badly affected  by the poisoning, has begun selling milk powder again and that people are accepting reassurances that it is safe.

Fonterra, which has a 40% stake in Sanlu, announced a 60 cents reduction in its forecast payout for this season, partly because of losses associated with the melamine scandal.

7 Responses to 6 Chinese babies dead & 300,000 sickened by melamine milk

  1. stef says:

    What sickens me more is that this company (and others) were undoubtedly promoting their formula over breastfeeding despite the WHO guidelines that there should be no promotion of formula to infants under 6 months.

  2. Adolf Fiinkensein says:

    I see Fonterra have experienced a sudden and major decline in the prices offered for its milk powder on internet auctions today. I would be interested to see what the experience has been on other suppliers’ internet auction. Is the drop universal or is it just Fonterra suffering a market backlash from Chinese damage to its brand?

  3. homepaddock says:

    Adolf I’m not sure if other companies do an on-line auction (there were complaints from them about Fonterra depressing the market by doing it) but I think it’s more to do with world commodity prices than Sanlu.

  4. macdoctor01 says:

    HP: the last official figures were 4 dead and 54,000 sick. The other two fatalities were announced one night about a week ago on Campbell live in a very short segment which was not posted on the TV3 website and not mentioned in any of the newspapers. I thought perhaps I had misinterpreted what I had heard, but, obviously, I hadn’t.

    The TV3 article mentions 11 deaths but the Chinese government say that five of them were not from melamine. I am somewhat dubious about this finding. On another Campbell Live, TV3 had a chinese couple who had clearly lost their baby from melamine poisoning, but the officials where denying it. I think that the 11 babies who died are probably all melamine poisoning (otherwise they would not have been put forward by their doctors) but some of them will have died from pneumonia and sepsis rather than kidney failure and have probably been unjustifiably discounted.

    And 300,000 potential renal transplants in 20 or 30 years time is a major medical disaster in the making.

    I think it is slowly dawning on the Chinese authorities that this is a debacle that will continue to haunt them for a very long time indeed.

  5. Personally I never trust figures from the Chinese government.

    Just in case you’re wondering why melamine was put into the baby formula:

    http://kiwipolemicist.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/why-is-melamine-going-into-chinese-baby-formula/

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