China’s Milk Victims Complain of Intimidation (Updated)

Earlier this month, Chinese courts began accepting milk contamination-related lawsuits. Now, however, families are saying that local officials are contacting them, asking them to drop their cases. From AP’s Anita Chang:

Families whose children fell ill from tainted milk have come under pressure to drop compensation lawsuits, victims’ advocates said Tuesday, showing the government’s lingering uneasiness over one of China’s worst contamination scandals.

Local officials were calling and visiting at least a half-dozen families, urging them to drop their cases against the dairies and accept a government-sanctioned compensation plan giving 2,000 yuan ($290) to most victims, said Zhao Lianhai, the father of a child sickened by the milk.

At least one family has decided to back out of their lawsuit, said Zhao, who has rallied other families through a Web site he created.

“One parent told me, ‘I’m more than 30 years old but I’ve never before seen the county and village officials. Everyone in the family is really scared,'” said Lu Jun, an AIDS activist who has been working with families of tainted milk victims in central China’s Henan province.

Update: Meanwhile, Chinese government officials and health authorities are battling other food/product safety issues. The Wall Street Journal Blog mentions crackdowns on water-injected meat:

Authorities in Shanghai plan to launch an effort to put a stop to the practice of adding water to meat, according to a local media report. Citywide inspections will follow the confiscation of five kilograms of meat from Jiashan in Zhejiang Province thought to have been injected with water. Already, one local market has stopped selling meat from Jiashan.

At issue is a practice that involves meat processors injecting water into animals before or after slaughter, adding weight – and therefore fetching a higher price. The practice, which has also popped up in other countries, degrades the meat and can add bacteria.

In addition, American company Johnson & Johnson’s baby products are under investigation for contamination in China. American department store Nordstrom is also recalling girls’ shoes made in China that contain harmful traces of lead paint.

March 18, 2009 11:38 AM
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Categories: Law