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Provinces urged to set up hotlines amid milk scare
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China's Ministry of Health issued an urgent circular on Saturday urging all provinces to establish consulting hotlines in the wake of the baby milk powder scare "in the shortest possible time."

To date, eight provinces and municipalities had set up such lines.

On Friday, the ministry upgraded two provincial health service hotlines (021-12320 in Shanghai, 010-12320 in Beijing) to national around-the-clock services, providing advice on how to appropriately treat babies stricken by the tainted baby milk powder.

The other six provinces with regional hotlines are Hebei, Qinghai, Jiangsu, Shandong, Jilin and Fujian.

"Before a hotline is put into service, other provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities should organize experts to offer people advice through other existing public service hotlines to meet the demand of local people's consultation on the milk powder scare," it said.

According to the circular, provinces which had established hotlines should strengthen the service according to the local situation and guide people to hospitals for diagnosis and treatment.

All the consulting information was compiled online as a guideline for other provinces' reference. It is available at www.12320.gov.cn.

In addition, the ministry reported the country's current progress on coping with the milk scandal to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Han Zhuosheng, general representative of the WTO office in China, said the body was willing to provide all necessary technical support.

More than 6,200 infants had developed kidney stones after drinking baby formula tainted with melamine. The chemical, which was added illegally,makes the protein content of milk appear higher than it actually is.

To date, four infants have died from the tainted milk.

Dairy giant Sanlu, based in Shijiazhuang, capital of the northern Hebei Province, was the first company implicated in the scandal.

(Xinhua News Agency September 20, 2008)

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