China raises death estimate from tainted milk to six

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has lifted to six the number of children believed killed from drinking toxic milk formula, months after a scare that has battered confidence among local and foreign consumers.

The Health Ministry had until now said four infants died from kidney stones and other complications after consuming milk powder tainted with melamine, an industrial compound used to fool quality inspections.

But in a new estimate of those stricken or killed by the tainted milk, officials lifted the number of deaths likely caused by the milk. Medical experts “cannot exclude” the possibility of 6 deaths, said a statement on the Ministry’s website (www.moh.gov.cn).

Chinese media first reported in September that babies had fallen ill from the formula. But officials have since acknowledged that the Sanlu Group, the main source of the tainted milk, and officials hid the problem for many months.

The scandal prompted bans and extra checks on Chinese milk and food products in dozens of export markets. Tests revealed it in Chinese-made products ranging from chocolate bars to yoghurt. Last year, melamine was found in China-made pet food ingredients that killed pets in the United States.

The ministry report also said that a total of 290,000 children are reported to have “urinary system abnormalities” due to consuming Sanlu-brand milk powder and a “handful of other milk powder brands with problems.”

Of these victims, 51,900 were taken to hospital, with 861 still admitted.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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