The New York Times says that China’s state-controlled media has admitted that “one of China’s biggest dairy producers received consumer complaints about its baby milk formula as early as December 2007 — much earlier than previously thought and nine months before the producer ordered a nationwide recall because of concerns that the formula had been adulterated with a toxic industrial chemical.”
The chemical, melamine, is the same chemical that was responsible for the pet food recalls last year, and has caused 53,000 illnesses in children — including nearly 13,000 hospitalizations and 4 deaths.
The NYT says that there is widespread speculation that the contamination was being covered up due to government pressure tied to the Olympic games.
The delays have led to widespread speculation in China that the Sanlu Group and some government officials were attempting to cover up the scandal during the Olympics because Beijing had pressured Chinese journalists and companies not to release negative news.
22 companies have been caught producing melamine tainted dairy products, leading to something of a panic in China. The substance, used in the manufacture of plastics, looks like protein when tested and was used to artificially increase the protein count of the milk.