The Chinese government should earnestly learn lesson from the incident of inferior milk powder that caused the death of 13 infants in Fuyang Anhui Province, and severely crack down on lawbreakers and crimes that raid the country's food market, said Vice Premier Wu Yi here Thursday.
"The blood lesson tells us that we should allow no bureaucratism and formalism on issues concerning the health and lives of the general public," warned Wu Yi at a special national teleconference on food safety.
Wu said that major food safety cases must be investigated seriously and lawbreakers must be punished sternly according to law.
Wu also called for a responsibility system to be established and improved at governments at all levels.
According to earlier reports, thirteen infants in Anhui have died of nutritional deficiencies from consuming substandard milk powder, and 171 infants suffered from malnutrition after being fed with milk powder deficient in protein and other nutrients.
The news 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 lawbreakers.
At a meeting held on April 20 by the State Council, the central government, Premier Wen Jiabao ordered that a special team should be dispatched immediately to Fuyang to investigate the accident.
The inspection showed 45 types of substandard milk powder were sold on the retail market in Fuyang City. They were produced by 141 factories in Heilongjiang, Zhejiang, Shandong, Hebei, Hubei and Jiangxi provinces, Beijing and Shanghai municipalities and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The products are sold in 149 brands.
Twenty-nine inferior milk powder factories have been detected, and two related packaging workshops were destroyed. The police have filed 39 cases and detained 46 people.
According to Ma Mingye, vice mayor of Fuyang, 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)