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Gov't takes new steps to address milk scare
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Authorities continued over the weekend to contain public dismay over widespread milk contamination, punishing local officials for negligence while strengthening inspections of dairy products across the nation.

Officials promised to keep stores supplied with clean milk and set up medical hot lines nationwide to handle one of the worst product safety scandals in years.

Investigations found 22 manufacturers were involved in a melamine-tainted formula milk scandal, including leading companies, such as the Bright Dairy & Food, Yili Industrial Group, and Mengniu Group.

The Ministry of Health said on Sunday that as of 8 am, 39,965 children had visited hospitals for checks or consultation and 12,892 had undergone treatment.

A total of 104 infants were seriously ill and 1,579 were discharged from hospitals after treatment.

Most of the children under treatment had drunk Sanlu formula milk. Among the children under treatment, 99.2 percent were under age 3.

The ministry said no case related to liquid milk had been reported in the mainland.

On Saturday, Premier Wen Jiabao told senior officials that official misconduct contributed to the milk contamination and earlier product scandals.

"In some places, incidents of food and production safety have continuously arisen and seriously harmed people's lives and health," Wen was quoted as saying by Xinhua News Agency. "The social impact is vile and the lesson profound."

Yesterday, Wen visited Beijing Children's Hospital, a local community and a supermarket in Beijing.

"For such a big food safety incident, parents are concerned about their children; so are we," Xinhua quoted him as saying, when he was visiting a neighborhood near Fuxingmen Avenue.

"Although people have shown a great understanding to the government, as government officials, we are deeply sorry."

Vice-premier Li Keqiang made a trip to a dairy region south of Beijing at the center of the scandal, visiting farms, shops and a hospital, where he urged "all-out efforts on medical treatment" for the sick.

In Dingxing County Hospital of Hebei province, he went to the infant ward where he talked to parents, asking about their infants' symptoms and progress.

Governments and hospitals should provide support when equipment was needed for treating the babies, he said.

Recalls of Chinese-made dairy products were extended on Saturday to Japan, which followed Singapore's lead, while more products were recalled in Hong Kong and Macao.

The State Administration for Industry and Commerce initiated a nationwide monitoring of dairy producers and sellers on Saturday.

By 9 am on Saturday, the administration had received 106,143 complaints and had refunded 304.38 tons of dairy products.

(China Daily September 22, 2008)

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