WHO accuses China of covering up milk scandal

September 27th, 2008 - 2:42 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 27 (IANS) The World Health Organisation (WHO) has accused China of covering up the country’s worst milk scandal that claimed lives of four children and made over 53,000 babies nationwide ill, the Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.”This incident was aggravated by delays in reporting at a number of sources,” said a spokesman for the WHO in Beijing. “These delays were probably a combination of ignorance and deliberate failure to report.”

According to state media reports, Chinese dairy firm Sanlu, the company at the heart of the crisis, knew about the contamination in June. But it did not notify the regional government in Shijiazhuang, its home town, until Aug 2.

The Chinese government also delayed in making the issue public until the second week of this month, which prompted the WHO to criticise the country.

Jorgen Schlundt, the head of the WHO’s department of food safety, said Sanlu had sold “milk powder with more than 100 times the concentration of melamine that an 11 pound baby can tolerate”.

The WHO rebuke comes as new figures emerged from Shanghai that said five percent of babies in the province have been taken ill in the tainted milk scandal. As many as 10,000 children aged under three have developed kidney stones after consuming the milk laced with melamine, an industrial chemical more commonly found in plastic, the newspaper said.

Dairy products, chocolates, sweets and biscuits have all been found to contain traces of melamine, which is generally used with watered-down milk to “bulk” it up and make it appear richer in protein. However, it triggers the formation of kidney stones when consumed.

Sanlu, which is 43 percent-owned by New Zealand’s Fonterra Group, has recalled more than 10,000 tonnes of contaminated baby milk from market.

The company is reportedly an official sponsor of China’s first spacewalk mission.

However, the taikonauts, who are preparing to carry out the space walk, have reportedly not been fed melamine-tainted products, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) has decreed that all Chinese dairy products and sweets must be tested. China’s most popular sweet, White Rabbit, has been withdrawn from stores. In Britain, supermarket chain Tesco has cleared its shelves of White Rabbit following the scandal.

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