Melamine Tainted Dairy Products Sicken 53,000 Children, Nearly 13,000 Hospitalized

China’s chief quality supervisor was replaced today as the total number of children sickened from dairy products tainted with melamine (the same substance that was found in contaminated pet food last year) grew to 53,000. Nearly 13,000 children have been hospitalized and 4 have died. Products manufactured by 22 companies were found to contain melamine, says Bloomberg.

Taiwan banned all dairy products from mainland China today, while Marudai Food Co. in Japan and Nestle SA in Hong Kong announced product recalls. The scandal has claimed the lives of four infants and revived concerns about the effectiveness of China’s food safety controls after scares last year over contaminated seafood, toothpaste and pet food.

“That shows that they’re serious,” said Jim Rice, greater China country manager for Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods Inc., who has worked with China’s food regulator. “Now this means a new guy with new ideas and maybe a new quality assurance system. It could be a healthy shakeup.”

Reuters says:

Melamine, used in making plastics, has also been found in cartons of milk and some dairy exports, but no illnesses from those sources have been reported.

Medical experts said on Monday that, as well as causing kidney stones, melamine could potentially cause far more serious complications by crystallizing and then blocking tiny tubes in the kidneys.

Japan, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan have all banned Chinese dairy products.

China Quality Watchdog Chief Quits in Wake of Scandal (Update1) [Bloomberg]
Nearly 13,000 in hospital as China milk scandal grows [Reuters]

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  1. jinnrice says:

    WOW IF THEY START TO BAN RICE ILL BE IN TROUBLE

  2. blackmage439 says:

    Well, now that the country has received a bit of their own “medicine” (Chinese medicine is likely to be tainted. Get it. HA HA! *ahem*), maybe they’ll actually take some realistic action, instead of just beheading their safety inspectors; thereby adding some cheap “byproduct” to their next shipment of dog food.

    I seriously hate China and their contempt for the world. I remember sometime last year when some contaminated American product (beef maybe?) made it to China’s shore. They responded by raising holy hell, banning those imports, and shunning the “irresponsible” US. Fast forward past the toothpaste, Thomas the Tank toys, and the pet food. China claims their manufacturing is infallible, and how DARE us Western pigs decry their fantastic, quality merchandise.

    I hope the death and sickness of their children provides an unavoidable slap to the face of every ignorant and arrogant Chinese person-of-power, who thought they could stomp all over the world and somehow avoid the Chinese Poison Train(TM).

    • wattznext says:

      @blackmage439: We keep hearing about how they will take over the world and be our masters in a few decades…sounds like they are farther off than that…

    • kingmanic says:

      @blackmage439: I wouldn’t characterize it as contempt for the world. It’s more a beleaguered anger which vents at anything it can. The reason for all of these problems is greed, corruption, and a market which had little to no safety regulations. Seriously it’s inane to think any particular citizen int he world is all that different from any other. Generally in my travels people are helpful and try to help.

      Your racism is just stupid. They need to grow and make all the mistakes America has already. At the turn of the century, shit like this happened in the US too. They are seriously behind in their regulation of their industries. Which is one reason why American business flock there to set up shop. With greed and poor regulation, comes this shit. If you think it’s a specifically Chinese thing you are foolish. the power that be would like nothing more then an unregulated American market.

    • satoru says:

      @blackmage439: You must be living in some kind of bubble world if you think they Chinese government is going to do anything. Case in point, a similar incident happened in 2002 in China, even more babies were killed (20-ish). Here we are in 2008 and basically the same thing is happening. Also note that this is the only incident we have heard of in Western media. The Hong Kong news papers constantly report on the latest ‘What you can’t eat this time’ because some Chinese guy came up with a new way to make a few extra bucks.

      The main thing here is that these incidents are always concentrated in rural areas of China. So the main government has little control or impetus to improve things. Also the entire infrastructure is unsuited to regulation or oversight especially in agriculture.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      Well, now that the country has received a bit of their own “medicine”…

      @blackmage439: According to satoru this isn’t new to them. Given some of the examples they gave I don’t see why we should think anything will happen now when it hasn’t before…which is an extremely depressing thought.

      • satoru says:

        @Rectilinear Propagation: Yeah it’s pretty sad, that I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even react to these kinds of things anymore with the usual outrage. It’s more like a “eh so what was it this time” kind of feeling. I know I ‘should’ feel more but it’s so numbing to hear these things so often.

        The other big issue in China is fake drugs. These are much more pervasive, and cause much more measurable harm to people.

    • metaslugx says:

      @blackmage439: That would require their government to care about their people, and not just their own self-interest.

  3. RenRen says:

    The chief of quality is going to get a bullet to the head for this, isn’t he? And his family is going to be charged for the price of the bullet, aren’t they? And all will be right with the world, won’t it?

    In due time, we’ll forget and keep buying the cheap stuff.

  4. Jonbo298 says:

    At least China actually punishes the proper people when something goes bad. We’re too moral-driven to actually SCARE these people into doing proper work.

    • kingmanic says:

      @Jonbo298: It’s hard to say if the culprit punished are the same as the people responsible. The problem with this sort of public lynching is the public doesn’t care if the guy is guilty or not. So often you get the culprits henchmen or misc. scapegoat.

      A while back my uncle in china was offered the deanship of the university he taught at. He wasn’t a politico there so he thought it strange for them to offer it to him. So instead he stated he would take early retirement, because he couldn’t turn down the offer wihtout a reason. Two years later they pinned a financial scandal on the person who did take the job. The cooked books predated the new Deans tenor but he was pinned for all the corruption.

    • mythago says:

      @Jonbo298: You think that China really is careful to punish “the proper people” instead of cutting off the heads of a few politically-unconnected scapegoats?

    • RogerDucky says:

      @Jonbo298:

      Actually, China doesn’t bother punishing the right people all the time. The country tends towards utilitarianism. If something goes wrong, someone will be publicly punished for it to calm those that were affected, give a warning to those who are actually responsible (but too politically connected to touch), and to give a sense of closure and justice for the current crisis. Unfortunately, the people punished were not necessarily the ones that did anything wrong, though they are plausibly responsible.

      China is currently like the U.S. in the early 19th century, when “The Jungle” was written — basically, lots of factories have really bad working conditions, due to greedy, unscrupulous individuals trying to make a buck. This is what causes the so-called “Chinese Poison Train” phenomenon. Government regulation doesn’t work there, since China, despite all the label-changing, is still a federalist monarchy. In other words, local officials hold total sway in their area — the higher-ups don’t get involved in local affairs very much, unless the local official screws up so badly that a central government intervention is completely unavoidable.

  5. MissTicklebritches says:

    Yipes! Let’s remember that China’s a country of over 1 billion people. Condemning them all for the actions of a few is not only foolish, but racist.

  6. spazztastic says:

    The only thoughts through my head right now is how many times has this happened before, where no one outside of China found out about it; and how ‘nice’ it is that the Chinese people are now passengers on the train, instead of conductors.

    • satoru says:

      @spazztastic: I can tell you that this happens pretty much every month. Here are just a few wonderful examples you may not have heard of:

      - Soy sauce made from human hair
      – Fake eggs
      – Fake ‘red yolk’ eggs which are prized for their medicinal value, which were dyed red with an industrial colorant that poisoned you
      – Tofu made from wall plaster
      – Cod fish that was actually oil fish (gave you an upset stomach but not deadly)
      – Fake salt
      – Fake pork buns made from cardboard dipped and fried in pig oil (pork has becomes very expensive in China thus the impetus to make ‘fake’ ones)

      • SunnyLea says:

        @satoru: Actually, the fake buns were pretty widely reported here. I remember seeing footage of some of them being made out of cardboard that was previously on the ground, under the workers’ feet.

        Ew.

      • jamar0303 says:

        @satoru:
        “- Fake ‘red yolk’ eggs which are prized for their medicinal value, which were dyed red with an industrial colorant that poisoned you”
        I remember the local news in Shanghai doing a rather big expose on this one. That was scary.
        “- Soy sauce made from human hair
        – Tofu made from wall plaster
        – Fake salt
        I’d love some more details on these three.

        • satoru says:

          @jamar0303: I don’t have specifics on these incidents. However there is an excellent article you can read done in 2004 ‘exposing’ several incidents of fake food making its way into the food chain. It’s a long read but worth while.

          [www.chinadialogue.net]

          [www.chinadialogue.net]

          Again this is only things this reporter found, though his investigative report was very thorough even by Western standards, let alone Chinese reporting standards which are pretty abysmal.

        • satoru says:

          @jamar0303:
          Actually I found some more details on the fake salt:

          Fake salt – Contained no iodine, or was industrial salt (like the stuff you’d use on your driveway in winter) served as consumer grade

          [english.cri.cn]

          Apparently even lard is too expensive! So much so that its more profitable to make it from sewage and swill. You can’t even make this stuff up sometimes.

          [www.alertnet.org]

    • satoru says:

      @spazztastic: As a side note the regular Chinese citizens have had first class, front row, advance seating with free meals on the Chinese Poison Train for decades. The corrupt government officials, and industry people are the conductors. The Chinese citizens themselves are the real victims here. Especially rural China, where they are really getting the shaft on a nearly hourly basis by their air, water and land being polluted by industrial chemicals. Then to be side swiped by the fact that you can’t buy anything at the supermarket without there being a good chance of you dying from it, they’re really stuck.

      Oh just as a side note, the families for those babies usually get 2 really awesome ‘compensation’ from the government:

      1) You get to have another kid (this is actually a big deal with the 1 child policy) but you still need permission from the government event hough your baby died.

      2) Monetary compensation that’s usually in the $1000 USD range if you’re lucky. Coal miner families in China might get $100 USD but usually get nothing, if their father dies in a coal mine.

  7. nicemarmot617 says:

    I try to avoid Chinese products whenever I can. The real problem is when something says it was made somewhere else, but is full of Chinese components. It has been clear for all of history that the Chinese government does not give the slightest crap about its own people, much less the rest of the world. They will continue to do this, just wait and see. Last year during the dog food contamination thing I said “How long till they find it in people food?”

  8. Ben Popken says:

    At least he didn’t hang himself like how some of their factories’ quality inspectors did in previous taint scandals. A sign of progress.

    • satoru says:

      @Ben Popken: Actually the guy that hung himself after the Mattell recall was one of the ‘good guys’. He was based out of Hong Kong, treated his workers well, and paid fair wages. He was forced/conned into buying the tainted lead based paint from a mainland Chinese distributor, due to the massive corruption that’s required to do any business in China. He had no wife or children, so he hung himself once they shutdown his factory since he literally had nothing to live for.

      • jamar0303 says:

        @satoru: Well, that’s just all kinds of wonderful. Now I know why HK people kicked up a fuss when reunification happened.

        • satoru says:

          @jamar0303: They didn’t just kick up a fuss, they fled Hong Kong like it it was out of style. Though the real kicker for them was the Tianamen Square incident. Before that most people in HK didn’t think much would change after reunification. Once they saw what happened on tv, anyone with money got out as fast as they could. Lots of them ended up in Canada, because the business immigration laws were much more lenient than in the USA ($250,000 and 3 employees of any kind, vs $1 million and 15 american employees).

  9. mwc5446 says:

    I’m just glad I didn’t go to the Olympics and have a cup of coffee with creamer, or milk, etc.

  10. Fist-o™ says:

    Hopefully, this will force the officials to realize that they can’t bury embarassing problems as easily as they used to be able to. the Great Chinese Firewall can’t stop everything.

    The trouble is, the culture is still very ingrained with the whole “Hiding screw-ups” philosophy.

  11. Parting says:

    Someone will get executed…

    • satoru says:

      @Victo: Extremely unlikely. In the previous incident in 2002, there were far more death (20-ish) and the victims were much worse off due to malnutrition because the fake baby powder had no nutritional elements. They arrested 40 some people, but they best sentence they ever gave out was 5-7 years. The execution of the previous agriculture minister was over corruption and bribery charges, and were not because of the deaths from the baby formula, the tainted eel, the poisoned dumplings, etc etc

  12. parnote says:

    As sad as it is, it was destined to happen. First melamine in our pet food imported from China. Then lead in the paint used for toys. Perhaps it has already happened before, but was kept quiet from the world media due to the closed nature of their society.

  13. azntg says:

    I think I know how China will get out of future incidents: Instead of blaming even the henchmen, they will just blame everything on the U.S. or Europe. Perfect! No sacrificial lamb required and easy to rail up popular sentiment against the foreign devils. Just blame others!

    • Justifan says:

      @azntg:
      they’ve already done it in the past like with lead in toys, forcing foreign companies to “apologize” for these incidents to feed their local propaganda machine.
      of course these companies are forced to work under heavy restrictions in china, they to basically create their own competition or go into “joint ventures” and are basically bent over backwards to be allowed to do business in the country…so making them apologize for the system the government creates is a bit of nonsense.

  14. I was in an asian supermarket last month buying some of the rarer forms of Ichiban (raman in the states) and saw one of may favorite candies, White Rabbit. I read that they too had been tested for higher levels of melamine in them. The specific reason why I did not buy them was because they were made in China and I did not trust them enough, it looks like my intuition may have paid off.

    There have been just way to many reports of food contamination and quality coming out of China lately, it has seriously eroded my confidence.

  15. bdgbill says:

    I’m just glad no animals were hurt this time.