Four local officials in north China's Hebei Province were fired on Tuesday following the baby milk powder scandal across the country.
Zhang Fawang, vice mayor in charge of agricultural production of Hebei provincial capital Shijiazhuang, and Sun Renhu, the city's animal husbandry administration chief, were fired late Tuesday following legal procedures, according to a decision made by the city's legislative body.
Shijiazhuang Food and Drug Administration Bureau director Zhang Yi and the city's Quality and Technical Inspection Bureau chief Li Zhiguo were also dismissed from their posts for loose supervision on the milk suppliers.
An estimated 1,253 infants, including two fatally, across the country developed kidney stones after drinking Sanlu's baby formula tainted by melamine, a chemical believed to help increase the the protein content in the milk.
However, the contamination has spread to other dairy companies as the country's top quality watchdog said Tuesday they found the chemical melamine in 69 batches of baby milk powder produced by 22 companies nationwide.
The authorities ordered a halt to the sale of the tainted products which included such well-known brands as Mengniu, Yili and Yashili, among others.
Gao Qiang, the Communist Party chief of the Ministry of Health, visited baby patients in Hebei on Tuesday. The province alone has reported a total of 861 infants suffering urinary system stones, with 61 of them hospitalized.
Gao, also head of the emergency team for handling Sanlu tainted milk, ordered timely and effective diagnosis and treatment for infants sickened by the contaminated milk.
Experts should be organized to go to remote rural areas to check the sick infants and urge them to be sent to hospitals for diagnosis and treatment, he said while visiting sick babies and medical staff in Hebei People's Hospital and Hebei Children's Hospital.
According to the ministry, the two deaths occurred both in the northwest Gansu Province. They were a five-month-old boy who died on May 1 after his family refused further treatment and an eight-month-old girl whose family also refused an operation and removed her from hospital on July 22 on which day she died. Both of the two were bred with the Sanlu formula and suffered kidney failure.
Zhang Zhenling, Sanlu's vice president, apologized to the public on Monday.
"The serious safety accident of the Sanlu formula milk powder for infants has caused severe harm to many sickened babies and their families. We feel really sad about this," he said while reading a letter of apology to reporters.
Sanlu, which is 43 percent owned by New Zealand dairy company Fonterra, has been ordered to halt production. The Hebei provincial government decided on Tuesday to dispatch four working teams to Sanlu Group for a thorough investigation.
So far, four milk dealers have been arrested and 22 others detained for questioning by Hebei police.
Among the arrested were two brothers surnamed Geng in Zhengding County, Hebei. They told police that they had been selling three tons of contaminated milk per day since the end of last year.
The elder Geng said they added the chemical into the milk to make it appear to contain more protein as they had suffered losses after their milk had been rejected several times by Sanlu Group for failing to meet quality standards.