China Ordered Cover-Up of Tainted Milk Scandal
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Beijing — Chinese authorities ordered a cover-up of a tainted milk scandal that has poisoned tens of thousands of babies because they feared social unrest if the news was made public, the Daily Telegraph has learned.
Senior officials gave the order to Sanlu, the company whose poisoned milk powder is said to be responsible for at least four deaths and illnesses in almost 53,000 infants.
The company, based in Shijiazhuang, met city officials three times to explain the extent of the crisis. Present were local representatives of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, China’s national product safety watchdog.
AQSIQ had already carried complaints on its Web site from a doctor concerned about the numbers of children fed with Sanlu milk who were suffering from kidney stones.
Yet despite Sanlu’s warnings that its baby formula was contaminated with the chemical melamine, no recall notice was issued to consumers.
The central government had issued orders to suppress “bad news” during the period of the Olympic Games, which were starting that week.
The authorities were also concerned about the effect on “social stability” — a euphemism for public protest — according to a source briefed by those present.
The details of the meetings are the first confirmation that the cover-up was deliberate policy and not bureaucratic inertia.
Supermarket shelves have been cleared of products made from Chinese milk from Taiwan to east Africa.
The details also raise questions for Fonterra, the New Zealand company that has a 43% stake in Sanlu and three of seven directors on the board, which had representatives at the meetings.