Four babies have died after drinking milk powder contaminated with melamine. Melamine is a cheap plastic made from oil, and when added to powdered milk, looks like protein in tests. Melamine was in the news over a year ago when pet food from China containing melamine was killing people's pets. In an attempt to regain public confidence, China executed a top drug regulator who was taking bribes to approve substandard medicines, including an antibiotic blamed for at least 10 deaths.
So far 19 people have been arrested while 78 others have been interrogated, according to Yang Zongyong, vice governor of the northern province of Hebei where Sanlu is based.
"We will severely punish and discipline those people and workers who have acted illegally," Health Minister Gao said Saturday. Beijing AFP
After a month of pride in China's national achievements with hosting the olympics, the food scandal has angry citizens posting quotes like:
"Drink a glass of milk a day, wipe out a country!"
"Foreign milk costs money, domestic milk costs lives" The Independent
Until a week ago, Sanlu's baby milk formula came with a seal stating "no inspection needed": their 1100 tests met the highest possible standards of government approval.
"So the question should really be whether the victims can sue the Chinese government."
"In an unprecedented stand yesterday that will test the Communist Party's limits on civil society, more than 70 human rights lawyers from 23 provinces and municipalities announced they will help parents whose babies are sick or have developed kidney stones from drinking tainted infant formula" (read more in the Sunday Herald)
In recent months, multiple deaths of people and pets have been blamed on Chinese ingredients. At least 51 people in Panama died after taking medicine containing diethylene glycol falsely labeled as glycerin from China. The same poisonous ingredient was found in toothpaste traced back to China. China was also blamed for 14,000 reports of sickened pets due to tainted pet food.
In recent years, for instance, China’s food safety scandals have involved everything from fake baby milk formulas and soy sauce made from human hair to instances where cuttlefish were soaked in calligraphy ink to improve their color and eels were fed contraceptive pills to make them grow long and slim. New York Times
Melamine, a cheap plastic made from oil, and when added to animal feed, looks like protein in tests.
“It just saves money if you add melamine scrap,” says a manager of an animal feed factory in China.
Melanine in food is illegal in the United States. Sixteen pet deaths linked to melanine led to the recall of 60 million packages of pet food.
China's former top drug regulator was sentenced to death today for taking bribes to approve substandard medicines, including an antibiotic blamed for at least 10 deaths.
Zheng's acts "greatly undermined ... the efficiency of China's drug monitoring and supervision, endangered public life and health and had a very negative social impact," the court said.
Under a nationwide safety campaign launched Monday, 90 administration inspectors will be sent to 15 provinces over the next two weeks. The government also announced plans for its first recall system for unsafe products. Hopefully China will learn that regulating food and drug safety is worth while.