Looks like China’s Health Ministry was a bit off in reporting how many infants were poisoned by melamine-tainted milk last summer.
Chinese officials now admit that 294,000 babies—equivalent to the entire population of Corpus Christi—were stricken. That’s 5 times higher than government officials reported 2 months ago.
Melamine is a nitrogen-rich byproduct of chemical processes used to make plastics. Early this year, criminals in Hebei province began adding the toxin to watered-down milk and baby formula in order to drive up apparent protein concentrations and increase profit.
In the run-up to last summer’s Olympics, government-controlled Internet portals squelched stories about the growing scandal. After that, the government tried to get in front of the story by detaining officials from complicit companies and replacing the head of its national quality control bureau.
In October, the Health Ministry announced that 53,000 babies had been sickened.
The toxin causes kidney stones and rarely, kidney failure but there is little that can be done to treat the stones other than rest and vigorous hydration.
Xu Zhiyoung is trying to help families sue dairy companies at the heart of the scandal. The legal scholar told the Washington Post last week that the courts had yet to accept such cases, but he hadn’t given up hope.
“We speak not only for 160 families…but for all the victims who suffered from contaminated milk,” he told the Post. “This is a much bigger voice than one individual case.”
Much bigger indeed.