Probe finds producer knew of toxic milk for months
Updated: 2008-09-22 23:24

BEIJING -- China's dairy giant, Sanlu, lied about its contaminated baby formula for months while tens of thousands of infants got sick and four died.

That's what the public is learning after an official investigation.

Sanlu isn't the only party at fault. Leading government officials in Shijiazhuang city, where Sanlu is based, knew about the toxic milk in early August but said nothing to higher authorities.

"They violated rules on reporting major incidents involving food safety," said an investigation team sent by the State Council, China's cabinet.

So far, almost 13,000 infants nationwide have been hospitalized with kidney problems as a result of drinking milk contaminated with melamine.

The investigation team said a person in charge of Sanlu has been detained on criminal offenses, though Tian Wenhua has not been named.

She was fired as board chairwoman and general manager of Sanlu and taken in for police questioning last week.

Sanlu Group began receiving complaints about sick infants as far back as December 2007.

The company didn't do tests until June 2008 when it discovered melamine was being added to milk to make it appear higher in protein than it actually was.

Sanlu did not report the matter to the Shijiazhuang government until August 2, which means it failed to take action for eight months, said  investigators.

The Communist Party of China (CPC) committee and the government of Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei Province, then delayed reporting the contamination to authorities of provincial and state levels until September 9.

On September 11, Sanlu openly admitted its products were toxic and recalled baby formula manufactured on and before August 6.

A number of Chinese officials have been dismissed or resigned in the wake of the scandal, including the CPC chief of Shijiazhuang, Wu Xianguo, and the nation's top quality control official, Li Changjiang.