China milk scandal deplorable, says WHO

Thu Sep 25, 2008 7:07am EDT
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By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) - The World Health Organization and UNICEF said on Thursday China's contaminated milk powder scandal was "deplorable" as more countries in Asia and Europe banned imports of Chinese milk products.

Beijing is battling public alarm and international dismay after close to 13,000 Chinese children crowded hospitals, sick from infant milk formula tainted with melamine, a cheap industrial chemical that can be used to cheat quality checks.

"Deliberate contamination of foods intended for consumption by vulnerable infants and young children is particularly deplorable," the World Health Organization and UNICEF, the United Nations agency for children, said in a joint statement.

But the two agencies said Beijing's plan to overhaul its food safety would help prevent a recurrence.

"We are confident that swift and firm actions are being taken by China's food safety authorities to investigate this incident fully."

"We also expect that following the investigation and in the context of the Chinese government's increasing attention to food safety, better regulation of foods for infants and young children will be enforced," the two organizations said in a statement.

The WHO and UNICEF also urged mothers to breast feed their infants, a need further underscored by "alarming examples" of tainted formula scandals in China and around the world.

While the scandal has triggered arrests and official sackings in China, the repercussions began to spread overseas.   Continued...