UN condems China milk crisis

China's contaminated milk crisis was branded deplorable by two leading UN agencies today as the scandal spread further.

More than a dozen countries have now banned or recalled Chinese dairy products.

In a joint statement the World Health Organisation and Unicef, the UN Children's Fund, demanded tighter rules governing children's food.

"Whilst any attempt to deceive the public in the area of food production and marketing is unacceptable, deliberate contamination of foods intended for consumption by vulnerable infants and young children is particularly deplorable," it said.

"We also expect that following the investigation and in the context of the Chinese government's increasing attention to food safety, better regulation of foods for infants and young children will be enforced."

Chinese baby formula bulked out with the chemical melamine has been blamed for poisoning 54,000 infants in China and killing four babies. Health experts say ingesting a small amount of the chemical poses no danger, but melamine can cause kidney stones and lead to kidney failure. Infants are particularly vulnerable.

Melamine-tainted products have also turned up in an increasing number of Chinese-made exports abroad - from sweets to yoghurt to rice balls.

The EU today also called for tighter checks on other Chinese food products in the wake of the health scare.

All imports of Chinese products containing more than 15% milk powder will have to be tested under the new rules due to come into force tomorrow after talks among the EU's 27 member nations.

EU food safety experts said they have found only a limited risk in Europe from food imports from China, but the European Commission said it was acting as a precaution in the face of the growing scandal.

In China, the problem has spread to a popular brand of sweets, with authorities removing White Rabbit candy from shelves.

White Rabbit, which has been recalled already in Singapore and Britain, was found to contain "unsatisfactory" levels of melamine - more than six times the legal limit - in a test of 67 dairy products.

Meanwhile the crisis apparently spread to animals, with a lion cub and two baby orang-utans developing kidney stones at a zoo near Shanghai.

The three animals had been nursed with milk powder for more than a year, said a vet at the Hangzhou Zhangxu Animal Hospital.

The powder was made by the Sanlu Group, which is at the centre of the tainted milk crisis.

The animals were found with kidney stones yesterday after concerned keepers sent them for a check-up.

"The milk powder crisis made us very worried about the health situation of baby animals," said a zoo spokesman.

"We stopped feeding with Sanlu after it was found to be tainted."

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