China Reports 432 Infants With Kidney Stones, Production of Sanlu Halted (Updated)

From Xinhua: Health Ministry: Tainted milk powder cause of infant kidney stones:

A preliminary investigation confirmed the contaminated Sanlu baby milk powder as the cause of kidney stones in infants after a first-phase probe by experts, China’s Ministry of Health said on Friday.

An investigation team jointly organized by departments including the health, public security, agriculture ministries and quality watchdog examined the urine and kidney stones of the infant patients and found the substance melamine therein.

The investigation team, which is in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, where dairy producer Sanlu Group is based, is now coordinating with the local government to investigate the incident.

Also from Xinhua:

“It is a severe food safety accident,” said Gao Qiang, a senior Chinese health ministry official, on Saturday at a press conference, referring to a baby milk powder contamination case which has involved Sanlu Group. The country reported 432 sick babies suffering from kidney stones as of Friday, and the local government has ordered a halt of production of the Sanlu Group, the producer of the contaminated milk powder that preliminary investigation shows caused the disease, Gao said.

For more online discussions about this disaster, please read: Kidney Stone Gate: Fake Baby Milk Powder, Sanlu & Baidu? on the Chinasmack blog.

Sanlu initially claimed that their products have repeatedly past quality tests, meet national quality standards, and the sick babies must have been fed counterfeit milk powder that used their brand name. However, last night, the Ministry of Health pointed out that there is suspicion of melamine contamination last night. Melanine can be added to make food products appear to have more protein.

Minutes after the government announcement, Sanlu issued a recall of 700 tons of milk powder. They said they wanted to be responsible to their consumers, and also claimed that a self-inspection showed melamine contamination for all milk powder produced before August 6th.

In 2007, melamine was also the cause of the bad pet food. Some Chinese netizens have commented that now Chinese lives are worth less than the lives of American dogs and cats.

Sanlu is now blaming peasant milk farmers who provide the company with milk. Police have begun arresting milk farmers. However, many Chinese do not believe this. They wonder how can farmers know how to use melamine or how can this problem affect all of their milk powder and not just some of it.

The Associated Press reports that during a news conference Saturday in Beijing, Health Minister Gao Qiang placed blame on the Sanlu Group Co., which produced the infant formula tainted with melamine, a banned substance.

Officials complained they were not alerted to the milk problem until Monday even though the product’s maker, Sanlu Group Co., had received complaints as early as March and its tests found a banned chemical in the milk powder in August. The company ordered a recall Thursday.

“The Sanlu Group should shoulder major responsibility for this,” Health Minister Gao Qiang said at a news conference.

He gave no indication what penalties the dairy might face, but said those responsible would “be dealt with severely.”

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