Police in Inner Mongolia arrested six suspects who allegedly sold or added melamine to milk in a scandal that eventually involved 22 companies and led to the deaths of at least four babies and sickened 54,000 others, North News reported today.
The six suspects allegedly supplied melamine-contaminated milk to Yili Industrial Group and China Mengniu Dairy Co, two of the country's biggest milk suppliers, the report said.
One of the suspects, identified as a 37-year-old man surnamed Cui, started managing a milk station in 2004. He collected milk from nearby dairy farmers and began to supply milk to Mengniu.
On September 18, Cui allegedly added 0.6 kilograms of a substance he referred to as "egg white" and 100 kilograms of water to 2,100 kilograms of milk to increase its protein reading, the report said. Cui purchased 20 kilograms of "egg white" for 380 yuan from a man surnamed Sun, who is one of the six suspects. The report said Cui knew what the substance was and that was used to artificially increase protein levels in milk.
Mengniu later found melamine in its milk and reported to police. Officers found and confiscated 19 kilograms of "egg white" in Cui's home.
National quality inspection departments found 307 grams/kilogram of melamine in the "egg white" substance, the report said.
Police in Huhhot, the capital city of Inner Mongolia, arrested Cui and Sun earlier this month for producing and selling poisonous and harmful food. The four other suspects were arrested at the same time, the report said.
Melamine is an industrial chemical used to make plastics. It can cause kidney stones if ingested in large enough quantities.
The Ministry of Health issued new limits on melamine levels in dairy products early this month. A maximum of 2.5 milligrams per kilogram was allowed for liquid milk, milk powder and food products containing at least 15 percent milk. It is banned as a food additive, but trace amounts are allowed from food containers or packaging.
Currently the cases are still under investigation.
(Shanghai Daily October 23, 2008)