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Tainted Baby Formula From China May Have Been Sent to U.S.

Sep 11, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Baby Formula From China May Have Been Sent to US

Tainted Baby Formula Have Been Imported To U.S.

U.S. regulators are warning that melamine-tainted baby formula made in China may have been imported to the U.S.  Consumers are being warned by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to avoid all baby formula made in China.  The agency is concerned that even though no brand of Chinese baby formula has ever been approved for sale in the U.S., the product may be on sale at ethnic groceries, particularly in places like New York and San Francisco that have large populations of Chinese immigrants.

The problems with Chinese-made formula were first revealed when a  Chinese hospital reported that 14 infants had fallen ill and are suffering from kidney stones.  It seems as if the babies all drank the same brand of milk formula, are under 11 months of age, are from a rural area of northwest Gansu province, and have all been admitted to the hospital in the past two months.  Many are comparing this outbreak to the 2004 milk-powder tragedy that killed at least 13 babies.

Reports first emerged on Wednesday, when the babies were said to have become ill. According to the Xinhua news agency, similar cases have now appeared in northern, eastern and central China.

China Have Not Yet Found Link Between Milk And Reported Death

Although one baby has died, officials in China have not yet found a clear link between the milk powder and the one reported death.  Meanwhile, Chinese officials are focusing their investigation on one brand of baby formula.  In the ongoing case, all the babies had been fed the same brand of low-priced milk powder bearing the label of the Sanlu Group.  A spokesperson for Sanlu—a leading Chinese dairy products company—insists that any substandard milk would have been produced by counterfeiters.  The company has sent teams to independently investigate the inci

Today, Chinese media reported that Sanlu  said it had found in its self-check that some of its baby milk powder products were contaminated by tripolycyanamide (melamine).  

Kidney stones are small, solid masses that form when those salts or minerals normally found in urine, crystallize within the kidney.  If the stones become large enough, they can leave the kidney and cause infection and, in some cases, permanent kidney damage.

"It is rare for babies to get kidney stones, let alone so many babies at the same time," said Zhang Wei, chief urologist at the Gansu-based No.1 Hospital of the People's Liberation Army.  Xinhua reports that parents advised the hospital that the infants all drank the same formula, made from the same milk powder.  The news agency did not mention the brand of milk powder.  The provincial Public Health Bureau said further investigations would take place to determine if there was any connection between the kidney stones and the milk powder.

Zhang Wei told the China Daily newspaper that it was possible more babies in the area could have fallen ill; however, high medical costs might have deterred parents from coming for treatment.  Also, Xinhua reported on Thursday that other cases had emerged in the provinces of Jiangsu, Shandong, Ningxia, Shaanxi, Anhui, and Hunan.  “An unknown number of infants in at least seven provinces and regions across China have suffered from kidney stones,” Xinhua reports.

This case is reminiscent of the 2004 tragedy that took place in eastern China’s Anhui province wherein 13 infants died of nutritional deficiencies after being fed substandard milk powder that had no nutritional value.  About 170 other babies suffered from malnutrition and other symptoms including swollen heads and an inability to grow after being fed the deficient milk powders.  That fatal food scandal prompted widespread investigations into food and health safety in China.

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