Another reason to Breastfeed!
By November 2008, China reported an estimated 300,000 victims, with six infants dying from kidney stones and other kidney damage, and an estimated 54,000 babies being hospitalised. The chemical appeared to have been added to milk to cause it to appear to have a higher protein content. In a separate incident four years before, watered-down milk had resulted in 13 infant deaths from malnutrition.
The scandal broke on 16 July 2008, after sixteen infants in Gansu Province, who had been fed on milk powder produced by Shijiazhuang-based Sanlu Group, were diagnosed with kidney stones.[cm 1] After the initial focus on Sanlu—market leader in the budget segment—government inspections revealed the problem existed to a lesser degree in products from 21 other companies, including an Arla Foods–Mengniu joint venture company known as Arla Mengniu, Yili, and Yashili.
The issue raised concerns about food safety and political corruption in China, and damaged the reputation of China’s food exports, with at least 11 countries stopping all imports of Chinese dairy products.
A number of criminal prosecutions occurred, with two people being executed, another given a suspended death penalty, three others receiving life imprisonment, two receiving 15-year jail terms,and seven local government officials, as well as the Director of the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) being fired or forced to resign.
The World Health Organization referred to the incident as one of the largest food safety events it had had to deal with in recent years, and that the crisis of confidence among Chinese consumers would be hard to overcome. A spokesman said the scale of the problem proved it was “clearly not an isolated accident, [but] a large-scale intentional activity to deceive consumers for simple, basic, short-term profits.”
In late October 2008, similar adulteration with melamine was discovered in eggs and possibly other food, traced to melamine being added to animal feed—despite a ban imposed in June 2007 following the scandal over pet food ingredients exported to the United States.
As of July 2010, Chinese authorities were still reporting some seizures of melamine-contaminated dairy product in some provinces, though it was unclear whether these new contaminations constituted wholly new adulterations or were the result of illegal reuse of material from the 2008 adulterations.