The brand is Sanlu (三鹿), one of the best known domestic manufacturers of milk products in China. The scandal involves babies falling ill across the country with kidney stones after consuming Sanlu brand baby formula that have since been found to contain melamine, which can boost the apparent protein content of the product in quality control tests. How did this happen? Sanlu says it got a tainted source of milk; nevertheless many people still speculate — based on similar “black-heart food” incidents in the past — that for reasons of profit the manufacturer knowingly kept a closed eye on doping in its food processing chain.
The basic story is here (in Chinese) and has seeped into English-speaking media also, for example here. But it is still a rapidly developing story with new information/rumors coming out every minute. At this moment it is the top discussion item pretty much everywhere in Chinese news and online forums.
China Health Bureau’s news office has confirmed that, after investigation, Shijiazhuang’s Sanlu Group’s Sanlu brand baby formula milk powder is found to be contaminated with melamine. The office reminds the public to immediately stop using this formula product, and infants who have already ingested the product and show difficulty with urination or other unusual symptoms should seek timely medical care. According to Sanlu Group’s product recall notice, the company’s internal checks have found that some batches of baby formula manufactured before 8/6/2008 were contaminated with melamine. About 700 tons of this are on the market.
Melamine can lead to stones in the urinary system. Gansu Province recently had many cases of several-month old infants falling ill with stones in the urinary system, with 59 cases reported in the province and 1 death. In these two months, provinces of Hubei, Hunan, Shandong, Anhui, Jiangxi, and Jiangsu have all reported similar cases. According to doctors, the patients had similar experiences — they have all ingested Sanlu brand baby formula.
At the same time, this reporter has discovered from various supermarkets that Sanlu baby formula manufacturered before August 6 have all been taken off shelves and ceased to be sold.
Currently the relevant departments of the State Council are taking the matter very seriously, and have formed a joint investigative group to look into and handle this incident, and to begin a full nationwide study into the medical impact on infants that may arise from this.
Netizens are not only blaming Sanlu, which has repeatedly denied problems with its product, but also the various government agencies, which have evidently acted slowly, when evidence mounted over the months. They also blame Baidu (post erased … it had this), the Chinese search company, for allegedly having “PR protection agreements” with Sanlu to filter search results for damage control.
Many also lament the myopia of Chinese companies in search of short term gain, that cut corners and deceive rather than pursue rigorous quality control and true corporate citizenship. While many would like to support a successful indigenous company with a long history like Sanlu, some believe that this episode spells the end of Sanlu and some other domestic food manufacturers, as no parent would trust Sanlu or similar brands again. They also note that in richer urban regions, parents already paid premium prices to buy imported formulas like Nestle, and it was only the poor rural families, who could only afford the inexpensive domestic brands, that now suffer.