Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sacked Sanlu chairwoman removed from local legislature over baby formula scandal

A sacked board chairwoman and general manager of a Chinese dairy producer was removed from the local legislature on Thursday over the ongoing baby formula scandal.

The decision to dismiss 66-year-old Tian Wenhua, who had led the Shijiazhuang-based Sanlu Group, as a deputy to the Hebei Provincial People's Congress was made at a meeting of the legislative body's Standing Committee.

The dairy giant Sanlu, based in the Hebei capital of Shijiazhuang in north China, was the first company exposed in the baby formula scandal. It is 43 percent-owned by New Zealand dairy company Fonterra and has been ordered to halt all production.

The infant death toll in the scandal has risen to four, the latest fatality reported in the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, local authorities said on Thursday.

The infant died at a hospital in the Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture of Bayingolin, the Xinjiang Autonomous Regional Health Department said, without giving further details.

The contamination earlier claimed the lives of three other babies, two in the northwestern Gansu Province and one in the eastern Zhejiang Province.

Nationwide, more than 6,200 infants have developed kidney stones after drinking Sanlu's baby formula, tainted with the chemical melamine, which was believed to have helped to increase protein content.

Tian, who was also sacked as secretary of the Sanlu Group Committee of the Communist Party of China, has been detained by police for questioning.

To date, 18 suspects in Shijiazhuang have been formally arrested. Six were charged with selling melamine, while 12 others were dealers suspected of selling contaminated milk to Sanlu, Shi Guizhong, Hebei Provincial Public Security Department spokesman, told reporters on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Shijiazhuang Mayor Ji Chuntang resigned over the scandal.

Earlier on Tuesday, four city officials were fired. They included Zhang Fawang, vice mayor in charge of agricultural production; Sun Renhu, the Animal Husbandry and Fishery Bureau director of Shijiazhuang; Zhang Yi, Food and Drug Administration director; and Li Zhiguo, director of the Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision.

The State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine has carried out test samples involving 491 batches of products sold by all 109 companies that produced baby milk powder in the country. The inspectors found melamine in 69 batches of powder from 22 companies.

Source: Xinhua

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