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Hong Kong Finds Melamine in Nestle Milk From China

World  (tags: corruption, crime, children, china, death, ethics, HumanRights )

- 3954 days ago -
The government said late Sunday it found the industrial chemical in Nestle's Dairy Farm brand pure milk


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June Rice (125)
Sunday September 21, 2008, 7:04 am
Shao Wenting, 1 year and 3 months old, lies on bed suffering from kidney stones after drinking Sanlu milk powder at a hospital in in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008. China's leaders were scrambling to contain public dismay over widespread contamination of milk supplies, castigating local officials for negligence while moving to tamp down criticism of the government's response. Officials promised to keep stores supplied with clean milk and set up medical hot lines nationwide to help people cope with one of the worst product safety scandals in years.

BEIJING - A Hong Kong toddler has developed a kidney stone after drinking Chinese milk the first reported victim outside the mainland affected by a widening scandal over a toxic chemical found in baby formula and other Chinese dairy products.

More than 6,200 infants have become sick and four babies have died in China after being fed baby formula laced with melamine, a banned industrial chemical.

No illnesses had been reported elsewhere until the Hong Kong government said late Saturday that a 3-year-old girl was diagnosed with a kidney stone after drinking milk produced by the Chinese dairy Yili that contained melamine.

The Hong Kong government also announced Sunday that tests found melamine in Chinese-made Nestle brand milk.

Since the problem of tainted milk products became public knowledge less than two weeks ago, the crisis has spread to include almost all of China's biggest dairy companies. Their products have been pulled from stores around the country, and in other places such as the self-governing Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau. Starbucks stopped offering milk in its 300 outlets in China.

Taiwanese company King Car Co. announced it has recalled packs of its Mr. Brown instant coffee and milk tea containing contaminated milk powder imported from China.

Japan and Singapore have recalled Chinese-made dairy products, and the governments of Malaysia and Brunei announced bans on milk products from China.

A top official with the World Health Organization said Sunday that delays in releasing critical information about contaminated Chinese milk had hampered Beijing's ability to rapidly deal with the problem and warn consumers.

Shigeru Omi, the WHO's head of Western Pacific operations, told reporters at a press conference in Manila that "some people withheld the information for some time," but he did not give specifics.

The scandal began with complaints over milk powder by Sanlu Group Co. one of China's best-known and most respected brands. But it quickly became a much larger crisis as government tests found that one-fifth of the companies producing baby milk powder had melamine in their products.

A New Zealand stakeholder in Sanlu has said it was told before the start of the Beijing Olympics on Aug. 8 that there was a problem. The dairy farmers' group Fonterra, which owns 43 percent of Sanlu Group, told the New Zealand government, which informed Chinese officials.

The public was not told until Sept. 11 that the powder, used in baby formula and other products, was laced with melamine.

Melamine is used in making plastics and is high in nitrogen, which registers as protein in tests of milk. Though health experts believe ingesting minute amounts poses no danger, melamine can cause kidney stones, which can lead to kidney failure. Infants are particularly vulnerable.

Some of the farmers who sell milk to Chinese food companies are thought to have used melamine to disguise watered-down milk and fatten profit margins hurt by rising costs for feed, fuel and labor.

Hong Kong's government said melamine was found in Nestle's Dairy Farm brand pure milk for catering use. It said the milk was made by Nestle's division in the Chinese coastal city Qingdao.

Nestle said in a statement last Wednesday that none of its infant formula and milk powder products contained melamine. "Nestle can hence assure its ... customers that its products are safe for consumption," the statement said. It made no mention of other dairy products, such as pure milk.

Nestle's Hong Kong office did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Calls after work hours to its Beijing office and Beijing hot line went unanswered.

The parents of the Hong Kong girl diagnosed with a kidney stone took her for a precautionary checkup because she had been drinking Yili milk daily for the past 15 months. Yili Industrial Group Co. is one of 22 companies whose milk and dairy products were recalled after batches of their products were found to contain melamine.

The toddler was in good condition after receiving medical treatment and had been discharged from the hospital, the government said.

China's communist leadership has launched high-profile efforts to show it is on top of the crisis, with Premier Wen Jiabao appearing on state-run television Sunday to say diary companies had to show more "social responsibility."

Wen was shown visiting a Beijing hospital where children were having health checks. He also stopped at a supermarket to look at dairy products.

"What we need to do now is to ensure that nothing like this happens in the future, not only in dairy products but in all food," Wen said.

Food and product safety scandals have been a feature of Chinese life. Only last year, the government promised to overhaul inspection procedures after exports of medicines, toys, pet food ingredients and other products killed and sickened people and pets in North and South America.

The chemical in the dangerous pet food was the same as in the milk scandal melamine.

Many of the largest companies whose products have been recalled, such as Yili Industrial Group Co. and Mengniu Dairy Group Co., did not have government inspections before the problem became public. The government scrapped that exemption this past week.


Janet Solomon (231)
Sunday September 21, 2008, 6:53 pm
Melamine, the cheap compound used to bulk up baby formula in China that has sickened at least 1,200 babies across the country and killed at least two so far, once had a much less dubious purpose and, in fact, can be found in some form in most American homes.

Filling Holes in the Food Supply
Composed of nitrogen, carbon and hydrogen, the compound was invented in the 1830s by a German scientist and came into fashion as a material used to make plastics and laminates in the late 1930s. When combined with formaldehyde and exposed to extreme heat, melamine creates a moldable material that, when cooled, is virtually unbreakable and dishwasher-safe. This made it the durable dishware of choice on some U.S. Navy ships during World War II. After the war, designer Russel Wright and the St. Louis-based company Branchell, among others, developed molded dinnerware out of melamine, known as Melmac, designing sets under names like "Flair," "Fortiflex" and "Color-Flyte." Throughout the 1950s, as Americans started buying processed foods and washing machines, clamoring for anything that conveyed "modern," colorful melamine bowls and plates became mainstays in kitchens across the country. Unfortunately, Melmac tableware was prone to scratches and stains and so the dishes fell out of favor by the 1970s, as more resilient household plastics were phased in and families returned to ceramic, china and glass-made dishes.

In the past decade or so, Melmac has become popular again, with collectors and savvy eBay dealers selling Wright and Branchell pieces, and new designers using the material for retro-themed household items.

But as melamine experienced a resurgence in American kitchens, the material in powdered form has also come into use by certain unscrupulous food companies as a cheap and abundant filler substance for products ranging from livestock feed to pet food and now, apparently, to baby formula. In some tests used to determine the nutritional value of a foodstuff, melamine shows up as a protein so manufacturers can use the compound to make their products appear more nutritious. Melamine is not toxic, but inside the body it can cause kidney stones and renal failure. In 2007, material containing melamine but labeled as wheat gluten and rice protein was shipped from Chinese manufacturers to pet food companies in the U.S. and elsewhere. After a Canadian pet food company announced it was voluntarily recalling food that was sickening pets, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fielded thousands of similar complaints across the U.S. Soon after, a myriad of pet foods contaminated with the tainted gluten and protein from China were recalled from the market, but not before thousands of pets had died from renal failure.

This month, under pressure from the New Zealand government, which had received complaints that a Chinese manufacturer was ignoring reports that its baby formula was sickening infants, China announced an investigation. Days later, it emerged that more than 1,000 babies were sick, many contracting kidney stones, after consuming melamine-tainted formula. At least two babies have died. On Sept. 13, China said that 19 people have been detained in the ensuing probe. Some critics, however, have suggested China knew about the link between the sick babies and malamine-laced formula months ago well before the Summer Olympics in Beijing but did not investigate until external pressure left them no choice.--from Brief History of Melamine
By Kate Pickert Wednesday, Sep. 17, 2008 Time magazine

Past Member (0)
Monday September 22, 2008, 6:16 pm
I grieve for their loses and their pain:( thank you for such detailed information juniper. and janet too.

June Rice (125)
Friday October 3, 2008, 8:31 am
Now they've found it in Nestle products in the US. When are people going to LEARN???
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