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Soya Milk Poisons 3,000 Pupils in Liaoning
More than 3,000 primary school pupils in northeast China's Liaoning Province continued to suffer the effects of poisoning yesterday due to their drinking soya milk produced by a Sino-United States joint venture.

The local media said three students have died but the provincial government did not confirm that figure. Some doctors and parents suspected that deliberate poisoning had been involved.

More than 200 parents have taken their children to Beijing for better medical treatment.

The students affected come from eight primary schools in the city of Haicheng. They experienced stomach aches, headaches, dizziness and twitching. The edges of many children's eyes, noses and mouths went black and blue.

The suspected soya milk, recommended by the local educational authorities on March 19, was produced by the Anshan-based Baorun Milk Co, a Sino-United States joint venture based in the city of Anshan in Liaoning Province.

Sources with the Anshan government, which also covers Haicheng, said the cause of the food poisoning was still being investigated.

Parents reportedly heard the pupils had been infected with corpus luteum mould but local authorities have not verified this.

One parent surnamed Gao said Beijing-based doctors had diagnosed some of the children as having abnormal readings for white blood cells and lymph.

Sources with the Beijing Children's Hospital, one of those in the Chinese capital to have treated some of the victims, said the incident was obviously a case of food poisoning but said it was difficult to tell the origin.

One doctor, who refused to be named, said: "I am afraid someone has intentionally put poison into the milk as the urinary albumin and phosphorus indices are strangely higher than normal figures."

The parent surnamed Gao said the local health department has so far refused to reveal the result of the examination it carried out.

Another parent, surnamed Yang, said they have to come to Beijing as few hospitals in Liaoning have recognized the symptoms to cure the children.

Yang said the milk has caused several children to go blind.

The Haicheng City Educational Commission, which had recommended that the children drink the soya milk, said the incident was still being investigated and no conclusion had been reached yet.

A representative of the Anshan Baorun Milk Co surnamed Han said she suspected that a competitor was to blame, as the soya milk from the same batch delivered to other schools had not had any negative effects.

"The health and epidemic-prevention authorities have proven that our products are up to the national standard," she said.

Han said her company has not been planning to pay out any compensation.

Sources with the Beijing-based Union Hospital said the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau has become involved in the case but declined to describe it as a criminal case.

(China Daily April 9, 2003)

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