Monday, September 15, 2008

Adulterated Baby Formula Haunts China's Children Again

Once again, tainted infant formula has shown up in China, killing at least two babies and sickening at least 1,200 more. This time melamine was been added to milk powder to disguise the fact that it had been watered down. (The melamine fools the tests done to check the formula's nitrogen content - but is highly toxic and causes severe kidney damage). A similar scam killed thousands of American pets, after melamine was substituted for a pet food ingredient (gluten) from China.

Back in 2004, thirteen babies died of malnutrition and almost 200 were hospitalized in eastern China's Anhui province after being fed substandard milk. The counterfeit milk powder, coincidentally the same Sanlu brand as affected in this recent scandal, contained no nutrition, causing infants' heads to swell while their bodies starved, according to Chinese media reports then.

A staggering proportion of food ingredients are imported from China. For example, China manufactures 90% of the world's vitamin C. Chinese pharmaceutical companies also dominate much of the world market in the production of antibiotics, analgesics, enzymes and primary amino acids. China makes 70% of the world's penicillin, 50% of its aspirin and 35% of its acetaminophen (often sold under the brand name Tylenol), as well as the bulk of vitamins A, B12 and E. [see here for reference]

The majority of these factories meet global safety standards - but many at the bottom certainly do not. While country of origin labeling is finally being mandated in certain foods (albeit, not processed food - which often contain added vitamins) ... the factory of origin is not.