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Baby-killing Milk Powder Sales Widespread

Producers of 23 out of the 40-plus types of substandard milk powder blamed for the malnutrition deaths of 13 babies in Anhui Province have been found, the investigation team dispatched by the central government has announced. Twenty-two of the people suspected of producing or selling the product had been detained by Sunday.

Three underground factories that produced the substandard milk powders sold in Fuyang were shut down on Saturday morning by local police and commerce officials.

The factories were located in Bengbu, Anhui Province; Zhengzhou, the capital of central China's Henan Province; and Tangshan, in north China's Hebei Province.

Milk powder with little or no nutritional value that was sold in Fuyang City, Anhui Province, resulted in 171 cases of infant malnutrition since May 2003.

Similar cases have been reported in Beijing and Guangzhou since the deaths in Fuyang aroused nationwide attention.

Many of the babies harmed by the fake formula were the children of impoverished, poorly educated farmers who have little understanding of nutrition and the dangers of counterfeit products.

Fed only the cheap milk powder, the infants developed swollen heads and their bodies failed to grow properly.
The Fuyang government began providing free health check-ups to all infants under one year old yesterday.

The local government reports that babies suffering from malnutrition may receive free treatment and families of infants who died will be given 10,000 yuan (US$1,200) in compensation.

Beijing health authorities also reported a case on Friday of an infant in the capital's Chaoyang District suffering from malnutrition, with a swollen head but thin arms and legs.

Cai Changjing of the Beijing Health Supervisory Office said the Aomeng brand milk powder that the infant was fed has little nutritional value in terms of protein, fat, calcium and other elements.

He said the municipal health bureau had ordered all supermarkets and stores to stop selling Aomeng milk powder, which is produced by a company in north China's Inner Mongolia.

The State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine issued an urgent circular, directing local departments to test the quality of milk powders, especially those for infants.

Fuyang city had confiscated 21,912 bags of inferior-quality milk powder and sealed 29,550 bags of milk powder by Friday.

Commerce authorities in Xi'an, the capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, also confiscated 2,035 kilograms of inferior milk products on Saturday.

In south China's Guangdong Province, local officials found only 68 percent of the milk powders in 19 major supermarkets met national standards.

Experts said the milk powder incident serves as an alarm to the central government and all local governments nationwide.

Each year in China some 17 million babies are born. About 20 percent of them are fed with milk powder.

Rural China, where supervision is slack and information is insufficient, has become the biggest dumping ground for low-quality and counterfeit food, officials said.

Local media in Fuyang first published reports about babies suffering from malnutrition after being fed substandard milk powder last April.

It was not until national media began to investigate and state leaders took action that local authorities began to get tough with those manufacturing or selling fake or substandard goods.

Officials dispatched by the central government to investigate the case in Fuyang visited several victims over the weekend while others continued the investigation.

(chinadaily.com and Eastday.com contributed to the story April 26, 2004)

Rural Infant Health Examination Urged
Dozens of Milk Powder Products Found Inferior
Experts Urge Stronger Enforcement of Bans on Low Qulity Milk Powder in Rural Areas
Suspected Fake Milk Producers Investigated
Inferior Milk Powder Wholesale Dealers Detained
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