From China Digital Space
三聚氰胺 (sān jù qíng àn): melamine
The 2008 Chinese milk scandal was a food safety incident in the People's Republic of China involving milk and infant formula, and other food materials and components, adulterated with melamine.
By November 2008 China reported an estimated 300,000 victims, six infants dying from kidney stones and other kidney damage, and a further 860 babies hospitalized. The chemical appeared to have been added to milk in order to cause it to appear to have a higher protein content. In a separate incident four years before, watered-down milk had resulted in 13 infant deaths from malnutrition.
The scandal broke on 16 July, after sixteen infants in Gansu Province who had been fed on milk powder produced by Shijiazhuang-based Sanlu Group were diagnosed with kidney stones. After the initial focus on Sanlu - market leader in the budget segment - government inspections revealed the problem existed to a lesser degree in products from 21 other companies, including Mengniu, Yili, and Yashili.
The issue raised concerns about food safety and political corruption in mainland China, and damaged the reputation of China's food exports with at least 11 countries stopping all imports of mainland Chinese dairy products. A number of arrests occurred as a result of the scandal; the head of Sanlu, seven local government officials, as well as the Director of the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) were fired or forced to resign in response to the incident.
The World Health Organization referred to the incident as one of the largest food safety events it had had to deal with in recent years, and that the crisis of confidence among Chinese consumers would be hard to overcome. A spokesman said that the scale of the problem proved that it was "clearly not an isolated accident, but a large-scale intentional activity to deceive consumers for simple, basic, short-term profits."
In late October 2008, similar adulteration with melamine was discovered in eggs and possibly other food, traced to melamine being added to animal feed—despite a ban imposed in June 2007 following the scandal over pet food exported to the United States.
Read more about this scandal via China Digital Times.