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WHO: China taking milk scare 'very seriously'
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China is working hard to deal with the contaminated diary products scandal, which has so far left four babies dead, a senior official with the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Sunday.

Dr Shigeru Omi, director of the WHO Western Pacific regional office, told a press conference that China is taking the issue "seriously".

"After acknowledging the problems, the Chinese government is very serious about the matter and I hope the situation will be brought under control as soon as possible," Omi said.

A number of investigations have been launched and several batches of products have been recalled in a bid to establish the magnitude of this "serious public health issue", he said.

The WHO is assisting China in probing the scandal but will not conduct its own investigations, Omi said.

Globalization means the scandal that started in China is a problem for people around the world, he said.

"Every country is vulnerable, every country can be affected, so the international community should work together to solve the problem," he said.

The poison milk problem has shown that there are still challenges for both local governments and the private sector, Omi said.

"There is large room for improvement on quality control, more investment is needed at the lower level, and serious commitment should come from the private sector," he said.

Since the scandal over the contaminated dairy products broke, 6,244 infants have fallen ill, 150 have been diagnosed with acute kidney failure, and four have died.

Investigations have shown the babies were made sick by the presence of melamine in milk formula.

Anothony Hazzard, a food safety specialist at the WHO's Western Pacific regional office, said the decision by some countries to recall milk products imported from China was "reasonable".

"I think many countries decided on the recall, I think under this kind of situation when the picture is not yet clear, it is a very reasonable position that countries take."

(China Daily September 23, 2008)

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