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53,000 children sickened by milk

Chinese authorities promise to crack down on those responsible for tainted formula.

September 22, 2008|From the Associated Press

BEIJING — The number of children sickened by tainted milk in China has jumped to nearly 53,000, the government said Sunday as it vowed to crack down on those responsible.

More than 80% of the 12,892 children hospitalized in recent weeks were 2 years old or younger, the Health Ministry said in a statement posted on its website. It said most consumed infant formula from the Sanlu Group.

An additional 39,965 children received outpatient treatment and were considered "basically recovered," the ministry said.

Over the weekend, the Chinese territory of Hong Kong reported the first known illness outside mainland China -- a 3-year-old girl who developed kidney stones after drinking Chinese dairy products. She was discharged from a hospital, a Hong Kong government statement said.

Singapore said it had found traces of melamine in a Chinese candy.

In the two weeks since the government acknowledged the contamination, it has issued recalls for dairy products from 22 companies after tests turned up traces of the chemical melamine. The Health Ministry said that most of the hospitalized were sickened by powdered milk and formula.

The ministry did not say why the number of cases had risen so much from the 6,200 previously reported, but it suggested that health officials were combing through hospital records from May through August to trace the origins of the contamination. The three deaths linked to tainted infant formula occurred in those months, the statement said.

Beijing has launched high-profile efforts to show it is on top of the crisis, with Premier Wen Jiabao appearing on state-run television Sunday to say dairy companies had to show more "social responsibility."

Wen was shown visiting a Beijing hospital where children were having health checks.

"What we are trying to do is to ensure no such event happens in future, by punishing those responsible leaders as well as enterprises. None of those companies lacking professional ethics or social morals will be let off," Wen said, according to the official New China News Agency.

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