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'Killer' Milk Powder Probe Continues, 31 Arrested

Forty enterprises in ten different areas have been found to be involved in the substandard milk powder scheme that left 12 babies dead and 229 others suffering from malnutrition, according to the preliminary results of an official investigation published Sunday.

The incident first came to light in Fuyang City, Anhui Province.

In late April, Premier Wen Jiabao ordered the State Council to organize a special team to investigate the incident in the city and in other areas.

Investigators have uncovered production sources, distribution channels and locations of the substandard milk powders.

Twelve babies have died of malnutrition after being fed the milk powder. Earlier reports indicated there were 13 deaths, but three of those were found to have been linked to other diseases. Investigators confirmed that two additional deaths were caused by the milk powder.

Some 229 other infants were found to be suffering nutritional deficiencies as a result of being fed the milk powder. Twenty-eight are still being treated in hospitals.

The investigators found that some of the producers were using starch, sugar, milk essence and other cheap ingredients to make the powder, which was deficient in the protein, fat and vitamins necessary for infant growth.

No poisonous materials, such as lead and arsenic, nor hormones, were discovered in the milk powder. The illnesses and deaths resulted from malnutrition, rather than poisoning, the investigators concluded.

The team found 55 types of substandard milk powder were sold in Fuyang City. They were produced by 40 enterprises in 10 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities and were sold to Fuyang mainly through the Wankelai Market in Zhengzhou, Henan Province; Changjiang Wholesale Market in Hefei, Anhui Province; and Taipingjie Market in Bengbu, Anhui Province.

Local law enforcement departments have so far arrested 31 suspects and detained 47 others. More than 100,000 bags of milk powder have been confiscated.

Zheng Xiaoyu, head of the State Food and Drug Administration and the State Council's investigation team, said the investigation will continue and those responsible will be dealt with according to law.

(Xinhua News Agency May 17, 2004)

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