HK and Seoul act on China baby-milk fears

China’s tainted infant-formula scandal spread to other parts of east Asia on Thursday as food-safety officials in South Korea and Hong Kong said they would investigate or recall Chinese products.

The Chinese government, which is scrambling to reduce damage to the image of “Made in China”, announced more arrests in connection with the milk-powder crisis, which claimed its fourth victim on Thursday.

Hong Kong ordered the recall of dairy products including milk, ice-cream and yogurt made by Yili, one of China’s biggest dairy groups and an official sponsor of the Beijing Olympics.

Hong Kong’s food safety watchdog said eight out of 30 Yili products had failed a test for contamination with melamine, a chemical that can boost the apparent protein content of milk diluted with water. Shares in Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group tumbled by the 10 per cent daily maximum for a second straight day.

South Korea’s food protection agency said it would test whether processed foods from China contained poisonous chemicals. The Korea Food and Drug Administration said it had collected samples of 615 imported Chinese products that might contain tainted milk powder, the Yonhap news agency said.

The Chinese government has said milk powder was exported by Yili and Sanlu, the first company whose products were cited for melamine contamination, only to Yemen, Bangladesh, Burma, Gabon and Burundi.

“Though there has been no bad reaction, the quality watchdog has demanded that [Yili and Sanlu] take action to recall the products,” the Chinese foreign ministry said on Thursday.

The government’s product safety watchdog website said tests on livestock feed would be stepped up to prevent the use of melamine.

Meanwhile, worried parents continued to bring infants to hospitals across the country to have them tested for kidney stones, which can be caused by melamine contamination.

At Shanghai Children’s Hospital on Thursday, nurses said they had tested more than 200 children. One worried mother said her 18-month-old daughter had fallen ill after drinking one of the brands of milk powder on a government list of those failing a safety test.

The toddler, Xia Yingxi, would have to wait a week for an ultrasound test, the mother said, given the large number of children being tested. In the meantime, the baby was given blood and urine tests and a physical examination.

The Chinese government said on Wednesday that 6,000 more children had fallen ill after being fed tainted milk powder. Melamine-contaminated pet food from China was blamed last year for the deaths of thousands of pets in the US.

Additional reporting by Teresa Yen

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