213 Chinese families sue dairies over tainted milk

Lawyers for more than 200 families who claim their children fell ill or died after drinking tainted infant formula said today that they were turning to China’s highest court to sue the dairy firms responsible in a bid to receive higher compensation and lifelong treatment.

Beijing attorney Xu Zhiyong said that, on Friday, the lawyers mailed an application to the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing to sue the 22 dairies which were found selling milk laced with the industrial chemical melamine.

The lawyers’ previous applications to sue a dairy company in lower courts in China have been ignored, he said.

Mr Xu said the 213 families were rejecting a payment scheme announced last month by the dairies because they wanted the firms to provide more compensation and to pay for medical expenses incurred from tainted milk-related problems for the rest of the victims’ lives.

“The compensation being offered is just too little,” he said in a phone interview. “The parents are also not happy about the plan to give free medical care only ’til 18 years of age.”

Across China, at least six babies have died and nearly 300,000 children made ill by milk contaminated with melamine, a chemical used in plastics which is banned in food products.

Investigations found that suppliers had added melamine, which, like protein, is rich in nitrogen, to watered-down milk to fool quality tests for protein content.

He said the suit was being filed in the Supreme People’s Court because the scandal has had a nationwide impact.

The lawyers’ group has not been notified if the application has been received. No-one at the Supreme People’s Court was immediately available for comment.

On Friday, state media reported that more than 3,000 families in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province, where a dairy at the centre of the scandal is based, had accepted the government’s compensation package.

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