Tue, Sep 23, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Number of sickened babies skyrockets

AFP , BEIJING AND HONG KONG

The head of China’s product quality agency, Li Changjiang (李長江), stepped down yesterday, as the number of confirmed cases of sickened children in a toxic milk scandal skyrocketed to 53,000.

The State Council accepted Li’s resignation, Xinhua news agency said.

The health ministry released new figures yesterday showing that 52,857 children had fallen sick after drinking milk powder contaminated with melamine. Four children have died from the milk powder and 12,892 children remain hospitalized with kidney problems, the ministry said.

Wu Xianguo (吳顯國), the top communist party official of Shijiazhuang — where tainted milk powder first surfaced from the Sanlu brand headquartered there — was removed from his post, Xinhua said in a separate article.

In Hong Kong, meanwhile, the government approved a law yesterday limiting melamine in food.

The regulation on melamine concentration, which takes effect today, was stricter than those imposed by the EU and the US, said York Chow (周一嶽), secretary for food and health.

But he said lawmakers had to allow room for a tiny amount of the chemical because of “migration” from plastic containers and environmental pollution.

Under the law, suppliers or food traders will be prosecuted if they import food products for infants or pregnant women with melamine concentration exceeding 1 milliliter per kilogram.

Chow also said Hong Kong would offer free checks for children who have consumed tainted dairy products at 25 clinics and assessment centers starting today.

Authorities had come under fire yesterday for opening only one hospital for the checks.

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