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三聚氰胺 (sānjù qíng’àn): melamine
China's national flag modified to display the chemical structure of melamine.

Melamine became a household word in China after the 2008 poison milk powder scandal. In the fall of 2008, at least six infants died and hundreds of thousands more were hospitalized after being fed milk powder manufactured by the Chinese company Sanlu. An investigation revealed that the company had been adding melamine, a chemical used in plastics manufacturing, to its milk powder in order to give the semblance of higher protein content. From that point on, “poison milk powder” and “melamine” have been terms well known to Chinese citizens.

The World Health Organization provides a Q&A about the the dangers of melamine contamination in the context of the 2008 scandal.

Since the 2008 Sanlu scandal, there have been numerous additional scandals involving milk contamination and tainted baby formula in China, battering faith in domestic dairy companies and significantly boosting profits for foreign diary firms in mainland China.

Read more about milk contamination and melamine from China Digital Times.

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