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China Begins Probe into Inferior Milk Powder Case

A special investigation team dispatched by the Chinese central government began its probe into the fatal inferior milk powder cases Friday in Fuyang City of east China's Anhui Province 

During his report to the team on Friday, Liu Qingqiang, mayor of Fuyang, said 13 babies died of malnutrition, and 171 infants suffered from malnutrition after being fed with milk powder deficient in protein and other nutrients in the city.


The majority of them live in rural areas in Fuyang, where cheap milk powder with little nutritional ingredients was available at rural shops. The children who drank the product developed swollen heads, while their bodies failed to grow properly.


So far, Fuyang City has confiscated 21,912 suspected bags of inferior milk powder and sealed 29,550 bags of milk powder.


Local police have detained 17 people on charges of selling substandard milk powder, and 34 more people were under investigation.


Zheng Xiaoyu, director of the State Food and Drug Administration and head of the team, said the team would, as ordered by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, conduct a thorough probe into the charges, and the source of the products, its dealers and the areas where the milk powder was sold, and promised proper medical service for the victims.


The team was set up Thursday as instructed earlier this week by Premier Wen, who promised severe punishment for those responsible for the accident according to law.


The team, which left Beijing Thursday night, held a meeting with Anhui provincial officials soon after they arrived in Hefei, the provincial capital, later that night.


The team is composed of officials and experts from six other ministries or bureaus, including the Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Commerce.


The premier also ordered continued efforts to rectify the food and drug market as a priority for the country's campaign to regulate its economic and market order in a bid to ensure food safety and health of the general public.


Reports on the malnutrition and deaths among infants triggered inspections of milk powder across the country. Similar inferior mild powder was also blamed for the malnutrition of a dozen babies in Heze City in neighboring Shandong Province, China Central Television (CCTV) reported Wednesday.


Jiangsu Province and Beijing also launched inspection of milk powder products on the market.


(Xinhua News Agency April 24, 2004)

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