In places like Xinxing, a town of brick and packed-earth houses surrounded by corn fields in the roughly terraced hills of western China, families have little. Yi spends most of the year working construction jobs in one of China’s largest cities, Xi’an, while Jiao tends their small plot of land. The family makes about $580 a year.
The baby boy was their second child; they have a 5-year-old daughter. China’s strict family planning rules allow many rural Chinese to have a second child in order to try for a boy, in a nod to traditional preferences for male heirs.
Infant formula for the baby was expensive but necessary. Jiao’s breast milk wasn’t enough, Yi said, so they started supplementing with milk powder. By his second month, formula was all the infant was fed. They thought the formula was healthy, and Sanlu was a brand with a good reputation.
Read CDT’s previous coverage of the tainted milk powder.