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Gov't Urged to Learn from Milk-Powder Deaths

Speaking at a special national teleconference on food safety in Beijing on Thursday, Vice Premier Wu Yi said, “The blood lesson [of the Anhui milk powder affair] tells us that we should allow no bureaucratism and formalism on issues concerning the health and lives of the general public.”

Wu said that major food safety cases must be investigated seriously and lawbreakers must be punished sternly according to law. She also called for a responsibility system to be established and improved at all levels of government.


Thirteen infants in Fuyang, Anhui Province, died of nutritional deficiencies from consuming substandard milk powder. Another 171 suffered from malnutrition after being fed milk powder deficient in protein and other nutrients.

The report had extensive repercussions after it was broadcast on television April 19. The Anhui provincial government issued an urgent circular on April 20, calling for immediate rectification of the milk powder market and severe punishment of those who had violated the law.


At a State Council meeting held on April 20, Premier Wen Jiabao ordered that a special team be dispatched immediately to Fuyang to investigate the situation.


The inspection showed 45 types of substandard milk powder were sold in retail markets in Fuyang. They were produced by 141 factories in Heilongjiang, Zhejiang, Shandong, Hebei, Hubei and Jiangxi provinces, Beijing and Shanghai municipalities and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The products were sold under 149 brand names.


The police have filed 39 cases and detained 46 people.


According to Fuyang Vice Mayor Ma Mingye, 31 working teams were dispatched by the local police to Heilongjiang, Zhejiang, Shandong, Shaanxi, Jiangsu, Fujian and Henan provinces and Beijing Municipality to investigate the sources of the inferior milk powder.


Local sources said that families of the victims have been compensated financially, and the hospitalized infants have been treated free of charge. Another 49,000 infants under one year old have received free physical examinations.


(Xinhua News Agency May 14, 2004)

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