BEIJING, September 13, 2008 (AFP) – China’s health minister said 432 babies had kidney stones after drinking contaminated milk powder and vowed to punish those responsible as the country’s latest product safety scandal escalated Saturday.
Gao Qiang said production had been halted at Sanlu Group after industrial chemical melamine, added by farmers and milk sellers to boost protein content, was found in the powder.
“As of September 12, there are 432 cases of kidney stones in the urinary systems of infants according to reports from health departments nationwide,” Gao told journalists.
The number was sharply up from figures reported earlier which put the number of affected babies at about 150, with one dead. Kidney stones are rare in babies and can block their urinary tracts.
More cases were likely to come to light as the ministry had only issued orders for health departments to report kidney stones in babies on Friday morning.
“We will severely punish and discipline those people and workers who have acted illegally,” Gao said.
Melamine, a chemical used to make plastics, glues and other products, was at the centre of a US recall of pet foods containing Chinese-made additives last year.