Archive for the ‘children’ Category

China: Death, Sickness from Poisoned Milk Double What First Reported

December 2, 2008

China’s Health Ministry said six babies may have died after consuming tainted milk powder, up from a previous official toll of three, and announced a six-fold increase in its tally of infants sickened in the scandal to nearly 300,000.

It was the first time since Sept. 21 that health authorities have revised the total number of babies sickened by milk powder adulterated with the industrial chemical melamine. The previous total was about 50,000.

The crisis has been met with public dismay and anger, particularly among parents who feel the government breached their trust after their children were sickened or died from drinking infant formula authorities had certified as safe.

The latest statistics show that China’s communist leaders are slowly acknowledging the breadth of China’s worst food safety scare in years. During such crises, the government often deliberately releases information piecemeal in part to keep from feeding public anger.

The ministry said in a statement late Monday that 294,000 babies across the country had suffered from urinary problems after consuming milk powder laced with melamine.

“Most of the sickened children received outpatient treatment only for small amounts of sand-like kidney stones found in their urinary systems, while some patients had to be hospitalized for the illness,” the statement said.

Thousands of parents have been clamoring for compensation for their sickened and dead children. The release of the figures raises the question of whether the Health Ministry is getting closer to finalizing a compensation scheme.

In this Oct. 19, 2008 file photo, Li Xiaoquan, right, holds ...
In this Oct. 19, 2008 file photo, Li Xiaoquan, right, holds up a photo of his twin daughters Li Xiaokai and Li Xiaoyan near his wife Li Aiqing and Li Xiaoyan at their home in Liti village, near Runan, central China’s Henan province. Nine month old Li Xiaokai who has been drinking a brand of milk formula linked to the melamine scandal died from kidney failure. China’s Health Ministry said six babies may have died after consuming tainted milk powder, up from a previous official toll of three, and announced a six-fold increase in its tally of infants sickened in the scandal to nearly 300,000.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

Read the rest from the Associated Press:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081202/ap_on_bi_ge/
as_china_tainted_milk_4

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Santa Won’t Visit China’s Toymakers Much This Year

December 1, 2008

Dongguan, China, produces a vast amount of the toys that will end up under Christmas trees around the world. Or it did, until all the factories there started to close because of the global economy….. leaving thousands of workers out of work and out of luck….

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At about six o’clock Thursday evening, around what used to be quitting time for the day shift at the He Jun toy factory in Dongguan, China, 40-year-old Wei Dong Li made his way to the factory’s front entrance, his three-year-old son Qian Jie tugging at his sleeve. The factory is now closed; a few security guards stand inside the locked gate. Posted each evening at the front entrance is a sheaf of documents: the latest rulings from a local court on compensation claims filed by many of He Jun’s 4,000 workers, Wei included. “They process a few of them a day, so I come back every other day to check and see if my case is on the list,” Wei says. He has no luck again. “I’ll just wait some more,” he says. “I have nothing else to do at this point.”

By Bill Powell
Time Magazine

Dongguan, along with a handful of similar, nearby towns, is the real Santa’s factory at the North Pole. A sprawling, charmless city of 7.5 million that sits 80 km southeast of Guangzhou, the provincial capital of Guangdong in southern China, Dongguan produces a vast amount of the toys that will end up under Christmas trees around the world. Toys were one of the critical, low-wage, low-tech industries on which China built its economic ascent over the past 30 years. But as workers such as Wei know better than anyone, 2008 is the year that that part of China’s miracle has come to an end.

It’s been six weeks since He Jun, a Hong Kong-listed company, shuttered two of its biggest factories in China — suddenly and without any warning, former workers say. They were among the latest and largest factory closures in China’s battered low-end industries: toy manufacturers, textile companies and shoe makers most prominent among them. China’s steadily appreciating renminbi currency — which makes Chinese goods more expensive in key exports markets like the U.S. — as well as higher costs embedded in a new labor law enacted last year were already wreaking havoc with companies that survived even in the best of times on the thinnest of profit margins. Now, with a global recession gathering pace, the best of times are gone, and the pain in what had been booming areas in southern China is spreading quickly. Fully half of China’s toy exporters, which sent nearly $8 billion worth of Barbies and Thomas the Tank Engines to export markets in 2007, were driven out of business in the first seven months of this year, Beijing’s General Administration of Customs said in a recent report. In the city of Shenzhen, the other major manufacturing center in Guangdong province, 50,000 people have already lost their jobs this year. And in Beijing last week, Zhang Ping, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, the nation’s key economic policy-making body, bluntly warned that “excessive production cuts and business closures will cause massive unemployment and that will lead to instability.”

In Dongguan, it already has. Earlier last week, on the evening of November 25, another large toy manufacturer here, Kai Da Manufacturing, laid off more than 600 of its workers because of slowing production. According to participants and eyewitnesses to what followed, a large group of the workers gathered in the front courtyard of the factory demanding to know what compensation they would receive. At first, a company manager told them that anyone with a good work record and less than five years service would receive less than 10,000 RMB—less than $1,500 at today’s exchange rates. Anyone with over seven years on the line and a good record would get 12,300 RMB or about $1,800.

Read the rest:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,
1862717,00.html?xid=rss-topstories

Meltdown fallout: some parents rethink toy-buying

November 29, 2008

In a season that inspires earnest letters about toys, one notable batch is being sent not by kids to Santa’s workshop but by parents to the executive suites of real-world toy makers.

The message: Please, in these days of economic angst, cut back on marketing your products directly to our children.

By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer

The letter-writing initiative was launched by the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which says roughly 1,400 of its members and supporters have contacted 24 leading toy companies and retailers to express concern about ads aimed at kids.

Jessica Luu, left, looks for deals as her friend's baby, Kaylee ... 
Jessica Luu, left, looks for deals as her friend’s baby, Kaylee Oliver, inspects a toy in the shopping cart, as shoppers at Toys ‘R’ Us at The Forum at Olympia Parkway in Selma, Texas look for the best savings on Black Friday, Nov. 28, 2008.(AP Photo/San Antonio Express-News, Bob Owen)

“Unfortunately, I will not be able to purchase many of the toys that my sons have asked for; we simply don’t have the money,” wrote Todd Helmkamp of Hudson, Ind. “By bombarding them with advertisements … you are placing parents like me in the unenviable position of having to tell our children that we can’t afford the toys you promote.”

The Toy Industry Association has responded with a firm defense of current marketing practices, asserting that children “are a vital part of the gift selection process.”

“If children are not aware of what is new and available, how will they be able to tell their families what their preferences are?” an industry statement said. “While there is certainly greater economic disturbance going on now, families have always faced different levels of economic well-being and have managed to tailor their spending to their means.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081129/ap_
on_bi_ge/toy_worries;_ylt=AoWMb0EDdgDf8
Q0n2j_5kxGs0NUE

China: Govt Trying To Make Earthquake Deaths OK, Failing Miserbaly

November 21, 2008

The news conference on Friday was meant to explain how far the government has come in helping victims of the earthquake that devastated Sichuan Province last May. More than 200,000 homes have been rebuilt, 685,000 are under reconstruction and $441 billion will be spent in the coming years to help make Sichuan whole again, Wei Hong, the provincial vice governor told reporters.

By Andrew Jacobs
The New York Times

But a garbled translation of Mr. Wei’s words ended up shifting public attention from reconstruction efforts to unresolved questions about how many children perished beneath the rubble of their poorly built schools.

Asked about the final student death toll by a foreign reporter, Mr. Wei gave a lengthy answer that ended with the figure 19,065 — more than double previous estimates and one that would suggest that a quarter of earthquake victims were children. Lest there be any doubt, the official English translation of Mr. Wei’s remarks placed the word “student” after the figure 19,065.

The news was immediately picked up by the foreign and Chinese media. Within hours it was even posted on the central government’s main Web site. In a country where official statistics are often taken with a grain of salt, the figure seemed like a stunningly frank admission that the earthquake’s toll on children had been even more horrific than anyone imagined.

Later, however, the government issued a clarification, insisting that Mr. Wei’s remarks were flubbed by his translator. The figure 19,065 applied to the number of positively identified victims, it said, not the number of dead students.

For now, the official death toll from the quake stands at 69,227, with 18,222 missing. A government spokesman said the authorities were still working on a final tally of dead students. In the past, the government has said that 7,000 classrooms were destroyed across the province.

Coming six months after the 7.9-magnitude earthquake, the episode has refocused attention on aspects of a national catastrophe that the government would rather forget. Although an investigative committee acknowledged in September that many of the schools that crumbled were shoddily constructed, the government has yet to issue a full report, and yet to hold anyone accountable.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/22
/world/asia/22quake.html?_r=1

Vietnam to tighten two-child rule

November 21, 2008

Officials in Communist Vietnam alarmed by a new baby boom are to crack down on couples having more than two children, family planning chiefs said on Thursday.

AFP

The government worries that rising numbers are putting strain on education, health and other public services in the country of 86 million, about two thirds of whom are under 35 thanks to a post-war population explosion.

The government first launched a two-child policy in the early 1960s but this was relaxed in a 2003 ordinance that encouraged small families without making it illegal for families to have a third child.

That decree was “so general that people haven’t understood it and have sometimes taken advantage of it”, said Duong Quoc Trong, deputy head of the government’s General Office for Population and Family Planning.

“The demographic boom is damaging the country’s sustainable development.”

Many of the Vietnamese couples who have a third child do so because they already have two daughters, due to a long-standing belief that sons must care for their parents in old age and carry on the family name.

In the first nine months of the year about 93,000 third-child births were registered in Vietnam — 10 percent more than in the same period last year — according to official statistics released by the office.

This week the cabinet agreed on a draft amendment that would turn the two-child rule into law once it is passed by the National Assembly.

In the past, Communist Party members have faced warnings, reprimands or expulsion for breaching the two-child rule, and citizens have been punished with pay cuts and other disciplinary measures at work.

Officials did not say what penalties may apply in future under the new law.

Some groups will be exempt, including members of ethnic minority groups with less than 10,000 people, said the state-run Vietnam News Agency.

Couples will also be allowed to ask for permission to have a third baby under certain conditions, for example if one of their children is disfigured because of an accident or suffers a fatal disease.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081120/lf_afp/vietnam
populationtwochildpolicy_081120174157

China Says Children Killed In Earthquake Vastly More Than First Reported

November 21, 2008

China acknowledged Friday for the first time that more than 19,000 schoolchildren were among the dead in the massive earthquake that struck Sichuan province in May.

By AUDRA ANG, Associated Press Writer

The earthquake left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing, but the government had never said how many of the casualties were students. Most died when their shoddily built elementary and secondary schools collapsed.

Their deaths become a sensitive political issue for the government, with parents of dead children staging protests demanding investigations. Many of the parents have also been subjected to intimidation and financial inducements to silence them.

The student death toll of 19,065 was given at a news conference on preparations for the winter by Wei Hong, executive vice governor of Sichuan.

Wei said that millions of those displaced in the earthquake still need quilts and repairs to their homes if they are to survive the coming winter, expected to be unusually cold.

The earthquake, which was centered in the southwestern province of Sichuan, displaced millions and left China struggling to carry out reconstruction work.

Wei said relief work was important because experts were predicting temperatures would be slightly lower this winter in the area compared to previous years.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081121/ap_
on_re_as/as_china_earth
quake_students;_ylt=AgxzFn2vcmo6a9pG21.85CCs0NUE

China Announces Food Safety Rules

November 20, 2008

The Chinese government, struggling to contain the fallout from a scandal over contaminated milk and eggs, announced a wide range of food safety measures on Thursday aimed at reining in abuses in the dairy industry.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, issued several new rules it says will govern all aspects of the industry, from cow breeding and animal feed to the packaging and sales of milk.

By Andrew Jacobs
The New York Times

 
An official prepared to destroy confiscated milk powder in Shanghai last week. Photo: Reuters

Since September, when Chinese-made milk powder was found to be adulterated with the industrial chemical melamine, at least four infants who drank the formula have died and more than 50,000 children have fallen ill. On Thursday, China’s Health Ministry said that more than 1,000 infants were still hospitalized with kidney damage, Reuters reported. The scandal has led to recalls of milk products across the world, embarrassed the Chinese government and devastated domestic dairy farmers and milk producers.

“The crisis has put China’s diary industry in peril and exposed major problems existing in the quality control and supervision of the industry,” said an official with China’s National Development and Reform Commission, according to a posting on the agency’s Web site.

In announcing the new measures, the government said it would issue new laws and standards by next October, and that by 2011, “the goal is to have well-bred cows and a mass-producing dairy industry,” according to Xinhua, the official news agency. The government said it would also provide loans and grants to dairy farmers and milk producers struggling to survive the crisis.

This is not the first time regulators have pledged to clean up the nation’s fast-growing agriculture industry. A similar cry erupted early last year when it was discovered that melamine-tainted pet food ingredients from China had sickened thousands of cats and dogs in the United States. At that time, the government promptly banned melamine as an animal feed additive and declared the problem under control.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/21/world/
asia/21milk.html?_r=1&hp

China to overhaul battered dairy industry

November 20, 2008

China announced a complete overhaul of its dairy industry Thursday to improve safety at every step — from cow breeding to milk sales — saying its worst food quality scandal in years had revealed “major problems” in quality control.

Changes will be made within the next year in production, purchasing, processing and sales, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

By TINI TRAN, Associated Press Writer

Li Xiaoyan near her mother Li Aiqing at their home in Liti village, ... 
Li Xiaoyan near her mother Li Aiqing at their home in Liti village, near Runan, central China’s Henan province, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008. Li Xiaoyan’s nine month old twin sister, Li Xiaokai who has been drinking a brand of milk formula linked to the melamine scandal died from kidney failure.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

“The crisis has put China’s dairy industry in peril and exposed major problems existing in the quality control and supervision of the industry,” it quoted an official at China’s top economic planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission, as saying.

Milk and milk products tainted with melamine, an industrial chemical, have been blamed in the deaths of at least three infants and have sickened more than 50,000 others. The government has detained dozens of people in the scandal, but there have been no court cases so far.

The State Council, China’s Cabinet, said the Health Ministry will issue new quality and safety standards for dairy products, while the Agriculture Ministry will draft inspection standards for melamine and other toxins in animal feed. The flow and delivery of dairy products will also be tracked, it said in a statement.

The breadth and speed of the proposed changes echo actions taken last year, when a slew of Chinese exports — from toothpaste to toys — were found to contain high levels of potentially deadly chemicals.

After an initial unwillingness to acknowledge problems, authorities threw themselves into a campaign to protect export industries and bolster the country’s reputation as the world’s manufacturing base.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081120/ap_on_re_as/as_china_tainted_
milk;_ylt=AhZrN5Td5pCQTHOhcIrKoRWs0NUE

U.S. says food, drug inspection access in China improving

November 19, 2008

U.S. officials opened the first overseas Food and Drug Administration office in Beijing on Wednesday as they gear up for a long battle to ensure the quality of food, drug and feed imports from China.

The eight FDA workers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou will set up a process for pre-certifying and inspecting imports from China, which has hundreds of thousands of food processors and drug manufacturers.

A series of food safety scandals in China, where thousands of babies fell ill after melamine was introduced into milk formula to cheat protein tests, has triggered alarm in the United States, which imports about 15 percent of the food it consumes.

By Lucy Hornby, Reuters

A laboratory researcher works at the food safety inspection ...
A laboratory researcher works at the food safety inspection center in Beijing July 18, 2007.(China Daily/Reuters)

Problems with melamine-tainted dairy products from China were so pervasive that the United States issued an import alert, which force importers to certify that the food was problem-free before entering U.S. markets. A similar alert has been in effect on Chinese seafood since last year.

U.S. inspectors have complained in the past of limited access and information when investigating safety disputes with Chinese suppliers and manufacturers, but U.S. Secretary of Health Mike Leavitt said cooperation was improving.

Access was “clearly spelled out” in agreements between U.S. and Chinese authorities, Leavitt told reporters.

“Heparin, for example, was not one of the drugs under the agreement but those protocols were used and there were U.S. inspectors and Chinese inspectors together visiting the points of production,” he said. “Progress is being made.”

Chinese-made heparin, a blood thinner, was blamed for fatalities and adverse reactions in U.S. and German patients, prompting a recall by Baxter International Inc. early this year.

The FDA offices would try to identify and train laboratories that can certify shipments for faster clearance into the United States, with the goal of ultimately accepting inspections by Chinese quarantine and inspection agency AQSIQ.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081119/us_n
m/us_china_usa_food_2

Retracing the Path Toxic Powder Took To Food in China

November 8, 2008

Xue Jianzhong never posted a sign on his ground-floor shop, but somehow everyone knew what he was selling. Customers from all over this dairy farming region in the northeastern province of Hebei flocked to Xue’s dusty street to buy special concoctions that he said would make milk more nutritious — and more marketable.

Advertised as a “protein powder,” the substance was sold in 44-pound bags and was tasteless, odorless and white, like talc. It wasn’t cheap, about $1 a pound, but it could be mixed into inferior milk or even with specially treated water and the result would be a milklike liquid that would pass government quality tests.

It wasn’t until September, when Xue was arrested in connection with the investigation into the poisoning of tens of thousands of babies across China, that it became clear his secret ingredient was a toxic industrial chemical called melamine. 

By Maureen Fan and Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, November 8, 2008; Page A01

Melamine can mimic protein in nutrition tests for milk and in products such as wheat gluten and chicken feed. But when ingested in large amounts, it can cause kidney stones or death in children and animals.

A child suffering from kidney stones receives medical treatment ... 
A child suffering from kidney stones receives medical treatment at a hospital in Hefei, Anhui province in this September 19, 2008 file photo. The discovery of melamine in eggs as well as in baby formula, milk products, biscuits, chocolates and other foodstuffs containing milk derivatives confirms what experts have long suspected; that the chemical is deeply embedded in the human food chain. China is a major transgressor as carcinogenic chemicals are regularly used as food colouring agents or as preservatives, experts say.  Reuters

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/07/AR2008110703562.html