10,000 Babies May Have Consumed Poison Milk

Remember melamine, last year’s pet-killing poison? It’s back with a vengeance, and this year it wants Chinese babies. As many as 10,000 may have consumed melamine-laced milk powder, according to authorities. Even worse, a New Zealand company detected the poison weeks ago but couldn’t convince local officials to issue a recall. Only after New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark demanded action did the Chinese recall the death milk.

Two brothers surnamed Geng were arrested for “producing and selling toxic and hazardous food,” police in Hebei, the north Chinese province where Sanlu is based, told Xinhua.

From late last year they added melamine to the 3 tonnes of milk they sold on from farmers every day, the report said.

“Geng did so because he suffered losses after milk from his station had been rejected several times by Sanlu Group,” it said.

Farmers or dealers may have diluted milk with water and added melamine, used in plastics, to make the protein level appear higher than it really was.

Thankfully, none of the tainted milk powder was exported to North America.

Liu Changjiang, minister of GAQSIQ (the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine for those who forgot,) strongly condemned the Sanlu Group, which may have known of the contamination back in March, saying:

“It’s shocking. It’s a crime against the people.”

No no, dear friend. After last year’s scandals, not even 10,000 poisoned babies counts as shocking.

(Though, obviously, it’s a terrible tragedy.)

Tainted formula again raises concerns about Chinese products [Boston Herald]
Hundreds affected in milk scandal [Reuters]
PREVIOUSLY: House Investigators: The Chinese Government Can’t Protect Its Own Citizens, Let Alone Ours
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. ideagirl says:

    and we still buy food products from China because…?

  2. azntg says:

    What Gengsters! Don’t think those guys (and possibly others involved who didn’t get arrested) will get away with it. Karma really is a b*.

  3. The_IT_Crone says:

    So when does melanine become a substance that we test ALL food for? At least all food from China.

  4. homerjay says:

    Wait wait wait. This guy’s milk was rejected. Then he added melamine. THEN it was accepted??? WTF??

    • marsneedsrabbits says:


      Wait wait wait. This guy’s milk was rejected. Then he added melamine. THEN it was accepted??? WTF??

      I think what happens is that they test the protein levels by testing nitrogen levels. If you water down the milk (or grain for dog food or whatever), the protein levels go down, and the nitrogen levels go down with them.

      So the business men in China add melamine, which makes the nitrogen level (but not the actual protein levels) go up and the stuff “passes”.

      Then it’s a race to see whether your dog/cat/baby gets sick (or worse) from malnutrition from the watered down product or from the melamine. Both are devastating to small bodies.

      And the businessmen eventually go up against the wall for embarrassing the Chinese government which, in turn, sends the families of the businessmen bills for the bullets.

  5. perruptor says:

    400 Chinese infants got kidney stones as a result of the adulterated powder. At least one died. The company Sanlu initially claimed that counterfeit Sanlu milk powder caused the problems. When the Chinese government said their product was adulterated, Sanlu started blaming the dairy farmers. People in China do not appear to be buying that story (or Sanlu products, any more). It seems that the company tried to bribe some parents to keep quiet.



    • Inglix_the_Mad says:


      And this is sad. I may not like China in some ways, but this in terrible for the children and their parents.

      I hope whomever did this rots in a very special jail cell, and if there is a hell, is punished there as well. Losing money is one thing, I understand the desire to not be poor in a country with a pathetic safety net. Still, this is on a level I would reserve for anyone that harms children: below the stuff that pond scum lives on.

      China, herself, should start policing this better. I doubt it will, however.

  6. BeeBoo says:

    I would NOT *assume* that none of this milk powder made it to the U.S. or that this is the first or last time this has happened.

    I see goods made for the Chinese market labeled only in Chinese writing quite frequently in discount stores. Usually it’s stuff like laundry detergent. Remember the poisonous Chinese toothpaste in the dollar stores?

    You have to hand it to China, they have become just as greedy and capitalistic as we are. The love of money…..

  7. PhoenixLE says:

    To say this isn’t shocking in China is horrible. People there care as much about the health of their kids as here. While there may be issues of corruption, to state that finding 10,000 babies poisoned isn’t shocking… you can do better Consumerist!

    • Hyman Decent says:

      @PhoenixLE: You seem to have confused shocking with words like heartbreaking or deplorable. I think Carey means that this incident is not surprising.

      • PhoenixLE says:

        @Hyman Decent: No, not particularly. This is a story that has been widely published here and in China. In a country where you can only have one child, finding that formula you may have been feeding your baby has been poisoned is indeed quite shocking. And I have little doubt the the public health officials responsible for protecting the public are no less shocked by this lapse. To make a blase comment saying this is not shocking news detracts from the gravity of this story.

        • TWinter says:

          @PhoenixLE: But there have been dozens and dozens of stories of poisoned food products from China over the past year or two. This story is tragic and horrible and I hope those responsible spend the rest of their lives rotting in prison, but if you’ve been reading Consumerist for any length of time this story is NOT shocking or surprising.

        • I read last night that the number of poisoned babies went from 426 to 1200, but 2 have died.

          @PhoenixLE: The Chinese cut corners everywhere. To say that the government is somehow surprised that this happened is naive. To say they’re surprised this got out to the Western media is more the immediate concern. He’s not being blase. He’s being realistic. It’s like saying the forced sterilization program is shocking. It’s only shocking if you don’t read. That doesn’t make it less of a tragedy.

    • TWinter says:

      @PhoenixLE: Seconding Hyman Decent here, I think you misunderstood what Carey was getting at.

    • evslin says:

      @PhoenixLE: To say this isn’t shocking in China is horrible.

      It isn’t shocking. China has been at the center of several very large food contamination stories recently, and the fact that they’re in another one now should no longer occur to people as a shock.

      It’s still deplorable, but it isn’t shocking.

    • Darkwing_Duck says:

      @PhoenixLE: In this context, perhaps. But given China’s track record in recent years, it is not racist or offensive in any way to say that it is “no surprise” that a defective product is from China

    • HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak says:

      @PhoenixLE: Why are you shocked? Were you not paying attention to the Menu Foods scandal last year?

      This is horrible, and I feel for the poor families affected by this company’s selfish actions, but it’s become a rather sad par for the course in China. The government and the corporations (both local and multinational) exploit the crap out of the citizens and don’t care who they hurt.

  8. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I’m sure Consumerist isn’t saying that it’s good that 10,000 babies in China were poisoned. I think what they’re saying is that in China, where the worth of a human life seems to be on par with a 10-cent souvenir churned out of a factory and shipped to an airport, it’s not terribly surprising that something on this large of a scale happened.

    In the U.S., we have e.coli contamination, salmonella, etc. but the difference is that we recall items, give the public information about how to avoid these products, which products are safe to eat, and what to do if you do get sick. In China, who protects these people?

    • perruptor says:

      @IHaveAFreezeRay: “…in China, where the worth of a human life seems to be on par with a 10-cent souvenir churned out of a factory…”

      I’m afraid you have some misconceptions about China. let’s start with this: Chinese parents treasure their children at least as much as Western parents do. Possibly even more, given the one-child rule. That a country has a large population does not by itself support an assertion that “life is cheap” there.

  9. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I forgot to add, though, that this is shocking. This is horrible, and terrible, but also very sad because it’s very possible that some of these children might die or might develop complications.

  10. MicSix says:

    It’s not going to bring those poor children back but you can be sure the souless criminals in this case are not long for this world themselves.
    I read on China Dailey online that the maximum penalty for this is death. I am not genrally in favor ofthe death penalty but if poisoning infant formula doesn’t qualify you for it nothing does. Perhaps it will at least serve as a detterent.

  11. satoru says:

    If you want ‘shocking’ or ‘horrible’ or ‘terrible’ then you’re in for a treat. Back in 2004, 12 children died from poisoned baby powder. Note 12 is the ‘official’ number, and you can bet that you should probably add a zero after that for the real death count. They arrested 47 people. The best sentence they could get, 5-7 years in jail for most of them.

    Considering ‘only’ 2 babies have died in this incident (and maybe 10x if you account for the usual Chinese government math), don’t expect too much punishment to be doled out to those who are ‘responsible’ which translates to ‘people we can blame who didn’t bribe us enough money’.

    Also consider the fact that the only reason they even bothered to tell anyone was because New Zealand found the taint and reported it, and the possibility that it might have been exported. Otherwise they would have easily kept this under wraps, like the Benzene spill of 2005 that they only bothered to mention to anyone because it was heading to Russia.

  12. crazyasianman says:

    kind of makes me a bit ashamed to say that my family is from there…

    • satoru says:

      @crazyasianman: I have many friends from Hong Kong, and they make a point of indicating they are not from China, but from Hong Kong. Though that sentiment isn’t holding up very well back there, since most of the people with money are all from the mainland side now, rather than the other way around.

  13. crazyasianman says:

    bah, we’re all the same :p

  14. MmeSosostris says:

    “Thankfully, none of the tainted milk powder was exported to North America.”

    Yes, thank heavens it’s all in China. They have far too many babies anyway.

    …Really, WTF?

    • Darkwing_Duck says:

      @MmeSosostris: It could have something to do with the fact that Consumerist is based in North America. And it doesn’t belittle the life of anyone in China in any way. I live in Miami. Thankfully I wasn’t affected much by Hurricane Ike-that doesn’t translate to-at least it ruined other people’s lives.

    • Jeneni says:

      @MmeSosostris: Yeah, I agree… that’s basically the good ol’ american attitude of “It’s horrible *stern frown*, but far away *smile*”

      The tone of this article overall is a bit crass.

    • Garbanzo says:

      @MmeSosostris: Yeah, that sentence rubbed me the wrong way too. Jeneni put her (his?) finger on why.

      • Jeneni says:

        @Garbanzo: Hehe “her” indeed. But yeah, I think a simple “It’s been reported than none of the tainted milk made it’s way to North America” would have sufficed for us selfish American readers.

  15. Gorphlog says:

    People should just breast feed. Its free and you dont run into problems like this

  16. Sanveann says:

    Poor little ones :( This breaks my heart.

    Yet another reason I will never, ever feed my kids formula if I can help it. (Other reason: Formula companies are evil. Witness their continual flouting of WHO guidelines and their promotion of formula to Third World mothers who don’t have clean drinking water or the extra money to spend on something they can produce for free.)

  17. Ein2015 says:

    What were last years scandals? I wasn’t reading this site a year ago… :(

  18. Islandkiwi says:

    Doesn’t China have an execution van? Because I have a pretty good idea what the next stop for it is.

    And what’s up with New Zealand, who discovered the problem but couldn’t get a recall going? Seriously?

  19. deeyousee says:

    Nice to see so much concern for my country, really. While on tv watching those lastest, I was thinking that nobody else give a glimpse. Actually our government is reacting hard as she always does, on national center televioson 1, showcase of little pumpkins’ illness are brought while 191 milky products companys have been product-tested uninformed. It is quite serious as the result tells that 83 of their tests went blue! More or less, they contain a chemical called…whatever(discribed in previous comments) that could destory children’s normal fuction of…ah…in a word, it makes the poisioned pee harder. We are all sad to get the bad news, but it’s not that hurrible at least in my eyes, the chemical is not any close to those biological waste or toxic one. Children are happy to have their arents by their beds, and they are glad to pee easier day by day, they are getting okay. And excuse me ‘IHaveAFreezeeRay’, so gentelman are you gonna stump some pills and pipe into those little babies throats while it can simply be treated by water in taking? For your information, these people need no extra protection. Because we’re caring little about human life, we’re same hair colored, we’re listening to pop and we dare to confess those to everybody. We are together.

  20. boxjockey68 says:

    Yes, why DO we still import from China. I wonder how many people need to be injured in some way or even killed before “we” finally get it. Made in China = BAD NEWS!

    • satoru says:

      @boxjockey68: We buy stuff from China for several reasons:

      1) A higher standard of living. Essentially the low cost of most goods allows for a large number of the population to purchase more things for their money. This raises their standard of living.

      2) China is a politically stable. You could argue that other places like India or Vietnam could take over China’s role but this is not possible for now. The political instability of these regions makes it almost impossible to produce products in these regions, get them to a port, and out. In India each province imposes a duty on all goods. So if your product has to go through 5 provinces, you’re getting slammed at each point for fees. This is why India has gone with doing IT, which you can segregate into a single region.

      • kimsama says:

        @satoru: Vietnam is actually very politically stable (at least in the short-term), much more so than China. In fact, it’s becoming a good refuge for businesses that want to operate in Asia, and desire more regulation and better legal protection (while still being low-cost). Plus, as it’s all coastline, it’s easy to ship things in and out.

        The biggest reason that China gets more of our business than Vietnam goes something like this: Vietnam = 85 million people; China = 1.3 billion people. They just have a tremendous human capital advantage.

        • Parapraxis says:


          I don’t know… I got stung pretty bad a few months ago with some exporting business I had. I ended up going back to my vendors in China for business.

          WAAAY too much corruption for my tastes. Plus, the stock market “correction” didn’t help much either.

          (And I’m Vietnamese!)

          • kimsama says:

            @Parapraxis: LOL, the stock market “correction” made no one happy. My in-laws there were pretty pissed off (but old enough that they didn’t trust the market enough to have invested much anyway).

            I was more talking about big businesses, like Intel, Nike, etc, that are locating new factories in Vietnam. But one thing’s for sure, you can get mucked up pretty badly in Asia regardless of where you go, it’s all pretty much a measure of luck and the integrity of who you’re dealing with!

  21. econobiker says:

    Chinese business ethics 101:

    What they don’t catch is profit.

    So what if some babies are poisoned, so what if the brakes on a heavy duty truck fail, so what if blood thinner kills a couple of people, so what if some children lick leaded paint.

    This is the real cost of doing business in China…

    • kimsama says:

      @econobiker: When people complain about regulatory institutions in the U.S., I really just want them to take a look at China and see what happens when you allow poorly-regulated capitalism.

      Any possible negative externality, e.g. death, dismemberment, poisoning, etc caused by faulty products become the consumers’ problem. Shoddy implementation and enforcement of the rule of law protects no one but the cheaters and liars in an economy. Hell, if it weren’t for rudimentary rule of law, no one would have ever even known who was responsible for this mess, since it took the NZ government getting involved before China pursued it.

      Another important reason for regulatory agencies to be vigilant in protection of consumers. And for independent agencies (like, hey, Consumerist!) to keep the regulatory institutions honest and on their toes.

  22. alejo699 says:

    Okay, this is terrible, but here’s me being pedantic: “Poison milk” would mean the milk itself is poisonous. Since the milk became toxic due to an additive it would be “poisoned milk.”
    Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system.

    • kimsama says:

      @alejo699: I hate when people condemn as pedantry anything that leads to clearer understanding and comprehension. “Poisoned” is correct, and is much more accurate than “poison,” and I’m glad you pointed that out.

      • BeeBoo says:

        @kimsama: My dictionary has (as the definition of “poison” as an adjective) “impregnated with poison” and gives as an example, “poison arrow”.

        “Poison” and “poisoned” are both correct.

        I hate when people defend pedantry when the pedant is wrong.

        • kimsama says:

          @BeeBoo: I stand by my assertion that: “‘Poisoned’ is correct, and is much more accurate than ‘poison’.”

          I never said “poison” was wrong, only that it was less accurate, and it is.

          It’s better to champion accuracy, isn’t it? (Also, my dictionary doesn’t have any such definition for “poison,” whereas it has exactly the definition you said for “poisoned.” It’s always better to use a first definition if you’re arguing with a pedant, as additional definitions are generally less accurate and more colloquial, or have fallen out of common use.)

          • BeeBoo says:

            @kimsama: The pedant was wrong. You may be right and I never said you were wrong, only that you were defending a pedant who was wrong. Go back and read the original pedantic post. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

  23. Garbanzo says:

    Hmm. Anyone else got the words to “Ted, Just Admit It” running through their head after this thread?

  24. BeeBoo says:

    Oh, and while you guys got your panties in a wad about “poison” vs. “poisoned”, babies are dying.

  25. alejo699 says:

    I would still say that “poisoned arrow” is clearer than “poison arrow,” and I don’t think you are very nice.
    Oh, and if you’re going to tell me how petty I am for bringing it up, doesn’t that also make you petty? Just wondering.

  26. Stormbringer says:

    This is just another straw on my dead camel’s back to avoid buying products made in China. Hell, the country has war plans made up against the US already. With bad products, poisons in several places and their human rights record, I try as much as I can to purchase products made elsewhere first. Sometimes, there’s no choice, however. If there was a boycott against Chinese products, Walley World and the Dollar Stores would be up the Yangtze without a paddle.

  27. MicSix says:

    It breaks my heart that these children had to die. It breaks my heart that the Chinese people are suffering as regulatory oversight of capitalism “a.k.a. the FDA’ and legal remedies for the victims (if this had happened In New Zealand you would have to call out your military to keep the headquarters from being burned to the ground- never mind the lawsuits).
    At least justice will be swift and certain for these soulless fools if only because they have made china look bad? or just worse.

  28. Justifan says:

    well its not just fools, its the entire system. cover ups because it would have looked bad if it came out during the olympics, then journalists who are afraid of making china look bad. everyones interest is in covering things up.

  29. perruptor says:

    Everyone except the children and their parents.

  30. Justifan says:

    egads, its gotten worse, its in their regular milk supplies now…