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Nearly 1,300 Infants Still Hospitalized from Melamine-Tainted Milk

Nov 13, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP According to the Associated Press and MSNBC.com, China’s state news agency—Xinhua—is reporting  that 1,272 babies remain hospitalized there with illnesses linked to melamine-tainted baby formula.  Two of the nearly 1,300 babies are in serious condition, the AP noted, adding that the widespread scandal also caused the deaths of four infants and the illness of over 50,000.

Meanwhile, we recently wrote about a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article  that revealed how farmers in China confirmed that milk spiking was an open secret in the Chinese dairy industry well before the massive and ongoing melamine scandal.  According to that piece, farmers there admitted that so-called "protein powder" of “often-unknown origin” has been used for years as a cheap way to ensure milk from undernourished cows dupes “quality checks.”  When the larger companies caught on, some additive makers switched additives and began using toxic melamine to raise protein levels in substandard milk.  Melamine mimics protein in lab tests and can cause severe kidney damage.  Now, dairy products and products made with dairy products from China are turning up with melamine contamination internationally, causing global health scares.

The WSJ noted that the scandal recently extended to melamine-tainted feed, which is believed to be the source.  It seems that tainting feed is a very common practice that is often hard to detect. The Agriculture Ministry in China confirmed to the WSJ that it discovered melamine in 2.4% of feed investigated and that it destroyed or confiscated over 3,600 tons of contaminated feed.  The WSJ stated that the ministry called on local officials to "resolutely crush the dark dens" making and selling melamine for feed, saying it found 238 and was investigating 278 more.  Melamine amounts found in eggs have been above the safety standard China and several other countries established of 2.5 parts per million, said the WSJ.

Melamine manufacturers also reported a rise in demand for their factory's scrap, WSJ reports, pointing out that residents in Zhangzhuang, for example, a small farming village, say melamine bought as scrap from a local factory was typically “stored on the” street outside the town’s school before being “turned into a milk additive.” The WSJ also wrote that one village elder reported that the melamine was “kept in big piles."  The WSJ also noted that the residents it interviewed stated that the melamine business became so intense that those residents “involved needed to work long hours and through holidays to meet demand.”

The WSJ also revealed that Mengniu Dairy Company—China’s largest “liquid milk supplier”—and Nestlé SA—a “multi-national food company”—both confirmed that they knew that “Chinese farmers and traders were adding unauthorized” substances to raw milk.”  Both firms claimed to the WSJ that they were unaware that melamine was among the substances.  "We knew there was adulteration" going on for many years, Zhao Yuanhua, Mengniu's spokeswoman, reported to the WSJ.  “A viscous yellow liquid containing fat and a combination of preservatives and antibiotics” is also known as a "fresh-keeping liquid" are among the adulterants, said the WSJ.  The WSJ article also noted that actual “protein powders,” which are also “prohibited from being added to raw milk,” use “protein from ground animal parts, soy, and other sources.”  And, “additive makers sometimes mix melamine with food additives such as the starch derivative maltodextrin, and repackage it for sale to dairy farmers without disclosing ingredients,” the WSJ learned.  The

WSJ also quoted anonymous sources as saying that “Some farmers add hydrogen peroxide, an antimicrobial,” confirming that “salespeople go from farm to farm in dairy-cow areas” selling "protein powder" for use as an additive.


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