China to improve controls after milk scandal

China's State Council has tightened quality control regulations for the dairy industry - while authorities in Macau and Hong Kong report that several children have developed kidney stones from Chinese tainted milk.

The new regulations, effective since they were announced yesterday, tighten control over cattle breeding, the purchase of raw milk and the production and sale of dairy products, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The measures also increase punishments for those caught violating safety standards.

Contaminated milk powder, laced with the industrial chemical melamine, has been blamed for causing the deaths of four infants and sickening 54,000 others.

More than 10,000 children remained in hospital with eight of them in serious condition, the Health Ministry said.

Yesterday, police arrested a dairy farmer accused of producing 600 tons of melamine-spiked protein powder, Xinhua said. Eight dairy farm owners and milk buyers were also arrested for purchasing the powder, it said.

The man, identified as Zhang Yujung, was arrested in his native northern Hebei province, where the company at the heart of the crisis, Sanlu Group Co, is based.

Police have so far arrested 36 people in connection with the scandal in Hebei, Xinhua said.

In Hong Kong, a 10-year-old boy was diagnosed with two kidney stones, the Department of Health said, raising the total number of children with milk-related kidney stones to seven in Hong Kong and Macau.

The boy has been drinking high-calcium, low-fat milk made by the Chinese dairy Yili Industrial Group Co. everyday for the past six years, the health department said. He is in stable condition and does not require hospital treatment.

Meanwhile, Macau's Health Bureau said three girls between the ages of four and seven have developed kidney stones. Their conditions were not immediately known.

Yesterday, parents of an 11-month-old diagnosed with kidney stones filed a lawsuit against Sanlu, their lawyer Chen Beiyuan said. The suit is seeking more than 800,000 Yuan (€86,555), Chen said.

Chinese authorities believe dairy farmers added melamine - used in plastics, paint and adhesives - to watered-down milk to make the product appear rich in protein and fool quality control tests.

The practice was apparently widespread in the industry, with government investigations finding 37 Chinese dairy companies, including the most reputable brands, had sold tainted products.

This week, the Chinese Health Ministry issued guidelines limiting acceptable melamine levels. There had been no previous standards for the amount of the chemical allowed in food products.

Meanwhile, authorities in Burma and Slovakia announced the discovery of more products tainted with melamine.

France ordered a recall of White Rabbit candies and Koala biscuits, which have turned up traces of the chemical elsewhere.

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