China faces baby milk crisis

Three Chinese babies die from contaminated milk formula

Three Chinese babies have died and more than 6,000 have been taken ill after being fed contaminated milk formula.

The safety scare began last week with reports that dozens of babies had developed kidney stones after drinking a formula that contained melamine, a chemical normally used in plastics.

The number of babies affected has since soared, with 6,244 babies falling ill, 1,327 being hospitalised and 158 suffering acute kidney failure.

It has since emerged that a fifth of China’s producers of baby milk have made powder tainted with the substance – and that local officials knew about the problem for more than a month before they alerted the government, The Guardian reports.

The Chinese health minister Chen Zhu said he expected the number of cases to rise.

Melamine is banned from use in food. Officials suspect that it was added to the formula to make it appear higher in protein when tested.

China is attempting to tighten its safety regime after a number of health scares.

In 2004, more than 200 babies suffered malnutrition and at least 12 died after being fed formula containing no nutrients and an estimated 1,500 dogs and cats died in the US last year after eating China-produced pet food tainted with melamine.

China is the world’s second largest market for infant formula. A campaigner from the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action said: ‘The milk powder companies…exaggerate the effects of their products and make the mothers doubt (the quality of) their own milk.’

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