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December 2nd, 2008
10:35 AM ET

Even more babies killed by melamine

John Vause | BIO
CNN Beijing Correspondent

It just won’t go away.

The latest figures from China’s health ministry show that even now, more than two months after the melamine in the baby milk scandal broke, almost a thousand Chinese kids are still in hospital, and according to China’s health Ministry, almost 300 thousand were made ill and a total of six kids were killed.

It is not too much of a stretch to suggest that even these numbers, do not reflect the full extent of how many babies and infants were left sick and dying. Consider this: China is the same size geographically as the US, give or take, with four times the population, and once you leave the big cities and head west, you step back in time and about two worlds. Many in the small isolated rural areas probably had no idea their kids were drinking poison, no idea why their only precious child was screaming in pain from kidney stones. This scandal has been going on for years.

I recently spoke with Marion Nestle, a very smart woman who last year warned that if the industrial chemical melamine was being used to fake high protein readings for pet food, that it wouldn’t be long before it was in the animal feed. She was so smart she wrote a book, called “Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine”. She explained to me that the melamine forms crystals, and that’s where the problems begin.

“So this crystal forms they can get quite large they block the kidneys. And that’s what happened . . . to the dogs and cats in 2007 and that’s what happened to the infants in China now, was their kidney tubules were blocked and their urine was trapped . .they died of kidney failure.”
In case you missed the point she added:
“It is not nice”.

And Marion warns the next place to look for melamine is Soy products. Melamine, it’s no longer just for breakfast.

Recently, in what could best be described was a international case of scheudenfraude, a few newspapers in China published banner headlines announcing melamine found in US baby formula. US officials said the levels were just a fraction of the killer toxic levels here in China, but that was mostly glossed over. As far as many in China are concerned we’re all in the same boat – and it’s made of melamine.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Global 360° • John Vause • Tainted Milk
soundoff (100 Responses)
  1. dennis demoss

    My daughter's husband is in the military and was in Iraq for 2 tours. He has experienced severe kidney stones recently and someone should see if some of our military food may be affected by similar melamine issues. Are there military statistics on similar cases? He is a young man and his situation is unusual I believe. This would be a good investigation for Mr. Cooper to pursue.

    December 3, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  2. Nisha Seshadri

    I totally agree with Hugh. We should boycott using any products from China. Its high time they meet the standards of safety. I cannot believe that adulterations happen in infant's formula too... totally inhumane act.

    December 3, 2008 at 4:14 pm |
  3. Thelma

    between the poisoned toys and products and produce coming into the U.S. uninspected, by our inspectors, (who by the way are doing a terrible job) from China, they won't have to declare war with us, they can just quietly sit by and wait for us to be poisoned minute by minute, one by one. They are known for their patience.

    December 3, 2008 at 4:07 pm |
  4. Carol, Canada

    It shows the $ is more important than human life. The world should boycott everything from China and baby formula no matter how "acceptable" they say melamine levels are. Mothers need to breast feed. Ever wonder how much melamine is in your coffee whiteners, hot chocolate mix, etc.? I agree, BOYCOTT CHINA.

    December 3, 2008 at 4:04 pm |
  5. Bernard J. Hanratty III

    The inspection of our food here in the US has been scaled back so far by the Bush administration I would not be suprised if we are not being fed the same meamine that the Chines are feeding to their own people. Before we try to regulate another country (again) we need to take care of our own.

    December 3, 2008 at 4:04 pm |
  6. Thelma

    Why is the U.S. government selling (giving) away the united states to China? At the rate we are going, the government in China will own America and they will have won their silent war against us without a shot.

    December 3, 2008 at 4:00 pm |
  7. jill berke

    If there's ever been a reason to breastfeed, this is it! How sad that our manufactured food supply is too often tainted by profit motives. Breast milk is safe as well as superior to formula for nutrition and long-term health benefits. And the skin-to-skin experience of a mother nurturing her baby is something to behold. I must add that am a grandmother who did not breast feed and regrets it. What mother nature intended, once again, proves best.

    December 3, 2008 at 3:42 pm |
  8. Joseph Sanok

    The word "government" in China is a term used loosely as in any third world country. Most of the country is un-governed or so poorly governed (by civilized standards) that it might as well not be. There is little that they can do even if they wanted to. China lacks even a basic legal system so how can we expect them to suddenly pull a sophisticated food monitoring program out of a hat. Impossible.

    December 3, 2008 at 3:40 pm |
  9. Jason

    Indeed it's an interesting question who is protecting us. If this keeps happening and I get sick from melamine in my "FDA Inspected" food . . . well, some food processors an regulators may need some protection of their own! It's time that folks who fail us face real consequences. We can't just sit quietly and eat melamine!

    December 3, 2008 at 3:39 pm |
  10. polly

    The number of infant deaths due to the melamine adultration of milk will never be told to the world or the China public. China has two sides – one in front of the curtain and one behind the curtain- just like the Wizard of Oz.. I have traveled there and seen both sides of the curtain...they do business this way as well.

    December 3, 2008 at 3:36 pm |
  11. Regina

    China is a toilet...no standards!!

    December 3, 2008 at 3:23 pm |
  12. Joe - Maryland

    Fortunately in the seafood industry 1 part per million is too much melamine but sadly, with infant formula, 2500 parts per million is acceptable. The FDA is underfunded and understaffed but lets not create a genocide that can be prevented.
    During the senate hearings on the tomato and pepper issue in the spring, a statement came out that is more true now than ever: "the first line of defense in homeland security is food safety".

    December 3, 2008 at 3:09 pm |
  13. senthilramaswami

    Could this be called a type of biological terrorism? I would say yes.. We cannot belive the FDA in USA as well. Just to reduce panic they say the milk products have less amount of melamine.. Why Melamine? Can this be fixed.. I as an adult also feel sick with the food in USA.

    December 3, 2008 at 3:05 pm |
  14. Lee in Ohio

    I agree with Hugh in california. Nothing else will get the attention of the Chinese government and businessmen.

    December 3, 2008 at 1:10 pm |
  15. Robert From Texas

    More evidence that we need stricter oversight here in the U.S. to ensure we don't end up with a similar occurence.

    December 3, 2008 at 1:09 pm |
  16. Rita

    First the high levels of lead found in the Matel toys our children play with and put in their mouths, now poision in their formulas! These are innocent babies, who are suffering for peoples bad judgement. China should not be able to produce anything without strict testing that maybe consumable to any human or animal!

    December 3, 2008 at 1:08 pm |
  17. Dave

    It is beyond disgusting and inhumane to think that there are people out there who actually make conscious decisions to do things like this.

    December 3, 2008 at 12:50 pm |
  18. jm

    Its impossible to boycott Chinese products. Try to find a coffee maker not made in China.

    December 3, 2008 at 12:48 pm |
  19. T Palmer

    Wow the corporate greed.....there was more than one saftey breakdown....the people that watchdog the feed for animals and the heartless people who packaged the formula ....they should all go to jail. I couldnt sleep at night....my mother didnt raise me to do that to people. Where do these people come from dont they have any morals. Make them all eat the stuff till they get kidney stones and die from it.....lucky i am not a judge huh.

    December 3, 2008 at 12:44 pm |
  20. Cheryl

    This is so horrific, I can't believe China would infect these innocent children on purpose. But then again, they are all about population control.

    December 3, 2008 at 12:43 pm |
  21. Elizabeth--- Austin, TX

    What about the baby formula sold in the USA that now has "traces" and "acceptable levels" of this deadly chemical in it? What is being done about THAT! No baby should be sickened or poisoned from drinking baby formula!

    December 3, 2008 at 12:41 pm |
  22. Jack

    And on Nov 28th the FDA has allowed higher amounts of this poison in Americas baby formulas!
    Dont worry about China, worry about people here!

    December 3, 2008 at 12:34 pm |
  23. Ari, California

    What I'd like to know is – how can we consumers know if melamine is in a product? Is it required to be listed? I think this happens more than we even know – just look at the high cancer rates, etc. Very very sad. Maybe it's time to start growing our own food again.

    December 3, 2008 at 12:17 pm |
  24. nasser abouzeid

    it's really very sad to see that in a country allowing one child only per family and even if it means the loss of a child inbetween several children in the family,is this the price of the high technology !!!!!!!! it's a shame.

    December 3, 2008 at 12:16 pm |
  25. Spike

    Don't just worry about China, the FDA is telling you its Safe to feed your Baby Melamine in small amounts. How does the FDA know that Small AMounts of Melamine is Safe for your Baby to Eat? I am sure it still does damage to your babies Kidneys, it just take longer to see the effects.

    Melamine is a Crystal that clogs Holes in the Kidney's. The larger amount of crytals, the faster it causes damage. I am sure even small amounts of crytals get stuck in the kidneys.

    December 3, 2008 at 12:08 pm |
  26. jennifer statz

    This very sad and also preventable. Human milk is made for humans. We are the only mammal that drinks other mammals milk. Babies could be fed mother's milk. The components in human milk is speciy specific. The composition of the proteins whey and casein are easier to digest in breast milk as opposed to formula. Breast milk is loaded with antibodies. The lactase helps with brain and growth developement. Human milk is always available, at the right temperature, does not cost anything and most of all it is SAFE. Not to mention the bond that is created between moms and babies.

    December 3, 2008 at 12:03 pm |
  27. Carol

    Why aren't we boycotting Chinese products until they develop safe standards? We need manufacturing jobs here in the United States, and this would help solve our problems and save our people's very lives.

    December 3, 2008 at 11:51 am |
  28. Matt - SF

    Hugh – That's a noble idea, but it won't work. Try going for one month not buying ANYTHING made in China. You'll find it a lot harder than you think. Try buying only American made items, foods, etc and watch your bills climb higher and higher. Most Americans can't afford to live without Wal-Mart... who's main purchasing dept is is China. Over 80% or more of the products that they sell are from China. Sad but true.

    Dana – Who's protecting us?! Nobody! That should be obvious by now... The FDA just announced that that will allow very small amounts of this stuff in our foods. Totally unacceptable, yet the Gov't is OK with it. Plastic has no place in food, period. Why is the FDA allowing it?

    China has major corruption issues everywhere. This should not surprise anyone.

    December 3, 2008 at 11:51 am |
  29. Bonnie ~ Louisiana

    So many items sold in US are made in China. How can we be sure melamine is NOT in OUR babies formula?

    December 3, 2008 at 11:50 am |
  30. Betsy, Nebraska

    Does anyone know what kind of baby formula in the U.S. has melamine in it? Please let me know!

    December 3, 2008 at 11:44 am |
  31. Doug ~ Asheville, NC

    Granted, things are far from ideal over there... but with a population density that's quadruple what we have, I highly doubt things would be much better for the US under the same circumstances.

    Also, concerning birth and "human rights"... you, as an American, wouldn't like it much if China could procreate all that they wanted, because that would mean that they'd feel the pinch for resources very quickly, meaning that they'd go to war faster. They're already buying farmland in Africa to be able to keep feeding their people, even with the "one child" law.

    Look at things with an open mind.

    December 3, 2008 at 11:43 am |
  32. Stacy

    I am so disgusted wtih China – I will not buy anything made in China anymore.

    Boycott Chinese made products and food. It is the only solution.

    December 3, 2008 at 11:41 am |
  33. Jim Ramsey

    The U.S. should learn from the Chinese tragedy.

    Never mind the "schadenfraude", we (the U.S.) need to make sure we have our own house in order. We need to know, not just hope, what is in the food we eat.

    Currently, we are nowhere near to achieving this. Even a devote libertarian believes government has a legitimate function in keeping the public safe, and a safe food supply surely qualifies.

    This is not an issue of free market trust; this is an issue of literally life and death.

    December 3, 2008 at 11:41 am |
  34. dawn

    How about the fact that we have over 60% of China's goods imported to the US everyday!

    December 3, 2008 at 11:41 am |
  35. Vickie Watson, TN

    Don't people know why God made breasts!

    December 3, 2008 at 11:38 am |
  36. Frances Knight

    Can't the world do anything to help these innocent little babies and their parents. This is a crime against humanity. USA should ban all China products, they are trying to kill us with the bad paint, tainted pet food, drug ingredients and now killing their own. There has to be something that our country and allies can do to stop these greedy people from killing these children. God help us, let your kingdom come soon.

    December 3, 2008 at 11:37 am |
  37. Irene Ramos

    what is the formula's name that is being used, that is causing these deaths? Is it just distributed in China or is it also sold here in the USA? Please let me know as soon as possible, I have a 6 month old infant. Thank you.

    December 3, 2008 at 11:36 am |
  38. Mack Sperber, WI

    This isn't right how could people do this i say that china should stop and think of what they are doing. what could of caused this and howcan they stop it???

    December 3, 2008 at 11:32 am |
  39. Joe- St. Louis

    The Chinese government needs to try and execute all the company chiefs, workers and government officials involved in this fraud. Anyone who knowingly put poison in the formula must be held accountable. If not, the people may seek justice for themselves.

    December 3, 2008 at 11:32 am |
  40. linda

    yes, baby foods and milk should be tested- but are not.....and why don't ALL countries try to encourage ALL mothers who possibly can to nurse their babies? It may be 'inconvient' and a 'hassle' or at first 'embarassing' for some women, but where there is a will there is a way- I nursed both of mine for about 2 years- it is far better for the babies and you don't have to buy formula or bottles!! I am sure the whole 'baby formula' instead of mom's milk campaign was simply a way for companies to make money in the first place!

    December 3, 2008 at 11:31 am |
  41. Jody

    Back to breastfeeding, cheaper and safer. I am still making every effort not to buy anything made in China.

    December 3, 2008 at 11:31 am |
  42. Jason, Jacksonville FL.

    What is really sickening is that we have the same problem here and the government won't say who the manufactures are or what brands are involved. I find it vary disappointing that main stream media is not pounding away to get to the bottom of this. When this story first broke i though that could never happen here, boy was I wrong.

    GET ON THE CASE MR. COOPER

    December 3, 2008 at 11:24 am |
  43. Charlie

    The situation with the food contamination is deplorable. I wonder what the motive of the report is though...There has been a general media campaign against Chinese-made goods...for whatever reason

    The implied extrapolation of the formula problem into the country side is not justified. The poor in the non-white/European world do not use formula as their first choice for feeding babies...they generally nurse...it's both healthier and less expensive. The formula problem is generally restricted to the urban middle class...because they are the ones who can afford it

    Having said that, it is common practice for U.S. formula companies to give away free samples in the Third World to mothers of newborn, with the hope that their milk will stop while trying out the formula and then they would be forced to purchase the rather expensive product. Perhaps the formula companies in China have also picked up on this practice?

    December 3, 2008 at 11:22 am |
  44. Christie

    Why is it that our government is doing little about the contamination found right here in our own country!!!! The FDA initially said that any melamine found in baby formula is unacceptable now trace amounts are ok? Why aren't they releasing the test data and which manufacturer has it in their product? I find this back-peddling to be unacceptable. I am a mother of a 2 month old and I am worried sick that what I am feeding her is going to cause her harm. I thought our governement would protect us but I don't know who to trust anymore!

    December 3, 2008 at 11:16 am |
  45. Julie Beckner

    In a godless country, the government is supreme and the individuals expendable. But don't get hung up on China, look at this country. As we take God out of the courts, out of the laws, out of the schools,, out of the homes and out of the hearts of Americans look at the injustices and the craziness of the people rising including the problems hee wih the young and 8year olds murdering 2 adults and a 9 year old hanging himself. Our country and any country who superceedes themselves above God and His laws self destructs and unless there is a major revival in this land you can expect more and more of the type of abuses that other countries now accept as routine.

    December 3, 2008 at 11:15 am |
  46. kathy-tulsa,ok

    A very good reason to add to the benefits list of why to breastfeed your infant. No one will cares for your baby as well as the mother!

    December 3, 2008 at 11:11 am |
  47. kathleen Waterbury

    I sincerely wish the CNN news staff would stop making stories about themselves and return to higher standards of journalism. I have stopped watching your broadcasts because of your insistence on congratulating yourselves and your co-workers for a "good story." That is for us to decide. And it is also my opinion there are far too many first person stories and reports. I think you underestimate the public's interest in the actual story and our lack of interest in the personalities of the reporters/anchors.
    Thank you for your consideration.

    December 3, 2008 at 10:57 am |
  48. Karina

    How many of us have been buying crap from China most of our lives? Even the cheap coffee cups and dishes from the dollar stores are painted with products that are found not be safe especially if you use the micro-wave to heat up what's in them. I have thrown many of the junk in my cabinests made in China out but unfortunately like most people that were unaware, I used them for a long time first. Now, I buy U.S.A products when I can find them or else I don't buy anymore. I would pay more for any product made in the U.S, if only I could find it. The latest thing that really pissed me off is that even the poplular brand of cotton underware sold at Walmart, is being made there.... go figure.....This will never end until we all change our habits and go back to buying American Made Products only.

    December 3, 2008 at 10:55 am |
  49. Heather

    Well, score another one for laissez faire, unregulated capitalism. How could this happen? Because this is how capitalism, unrestrained by government regulation, works, that's how.

    December 3, 2008 at 10:49 am |
  50. Kathy

    Forget China! It's happening here in the United States of America and the good ol' government (FDA) thinks the levels found in OUR baby formulas are "safe." What kind of a country, thinks that ANY amount of a known poison is acceptable in our foods-especially infant formula?

    December 3, 2008 at 10:49 am |
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