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China: Hundreds of babies fed tainted milk

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Chinese health ministry: "It is a severe food safety accident"
  • Xinhua: Those being questioned include dairy farmers and milk dealers
  • One baby in Gansu province died as a result of kidney stones related to milk
  • Kidney problems in infants were reported as early as mid-July
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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Chinese officials said Saturday that 432 babies now have kidney stones after being fed with contaminated baby milk powder, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

One baby in Gansu province has died as a result of kidney stones related to the milk powder, the news agency said.

"It is a severe food safety accident," senior Chinese health ministry official Gao Qiang told a news conference, in a statement reported by Xinhua.

The manufacturer has already recalled more than 8,200 tons of the tainted formula following reports of babies developing kidney stones, Xinhua said. Sanlu Group, one of China's leading dairy producers, has also sealed off more than 2,100 tons of contaminated product and another 700 tons still need to be recalled, the news agency said.

Chinese police have questioned 78 people -- including dairy farmers and milk dealers -- about the contamination, a Chinese official told Xinhua earlier Saturday. Sanlu would not say whether its own employees are being investigated, Xinhua said.

Testing by Sanlu found tripolycyanamide, also known as melamine, in 700 tons of its product, the news agency reported.

Zhao told the news agency that the suspects added water to the milk they sold to Sanlu to make more money, then added the chemical so the diluted milk could still meet standards.

Health experts say ingesting melamine can lead to kidney stones, urinary tract ulcers, and eye and skin irritation.

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The chemical is commonly used in coatings and laminates, wood adhesives, fabric coatings, ceiling tiles and flame retardants.

Hundreds of Wal-Mart and Carrefour stores in China are pulling the Sanlu milk powder from their shelves, Xinhua said.

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