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Inferior Milk Powder Confirmed as Cause of Illness

A group of investigators sent by the State Council, China's cabinet, have confirmed that the inadequate nutritional value of some substandard milk powder sold in local markets is to blame for the illness of a number of infants in Fuyang City, east China's Anhui Province.

A total of 189 babies, all born after May 1, 2003, were found to be suffering from malnutrition after they were fed the inferior products over a period of time. Thirteen died.

Ignoring official standards for the production of infant food, producers replaced the required nutritional elements in part or in whole with starch and sugar. The investigators found that the inferior milk powder was widely sold in rural areas around Anhui Province.

In a related development, police in Fuyang have detained five people involved in the sale of the fake milk products.

Professor Chen Xingliang, a law expert from prestigious Peking University, says that these people may face charges of making and selling counterfeit products. Those who are found guilty of selling fake products worth 2 million yuan (US$240,000) could be sentenced to jail terms of 15 years to life, plus fines ranging from 50 to 200 percent of the illegal sales.

Recent media reports on the number of infants suffering malnutrition led to Premier Wen Jiabao's order for an immediate investigation into the quality of infant-use milk powder.

(Xinhua News Agency April 28, 2004)

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