Chinese melamine defendants face death

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Milk

The Chinese melamine scandal is expected to claim more lives after the country’s courts sentenced two people with alleged involvement in last year’s contamination to death and imprisoned an industry executive, say news reports.

Tian Wenhua, who until last year headed Sanlu, one of the country’s leading dairy producers, faces life in prison for her role in allegedly turning allowing the sale of dangerous and substandard products, the Reuters news agency reported.

Sanlu, which is partly owned by New Zealand-based cooperative Fonterra and has filed for bankruptcy as of this month, was one of a number of groups, including Arla Mengniu linked to supplying contaminated products in the country.

Two other defendants face death for their suspected involvement in contaminating milk that found its way into infant formulas and other finished products of companies operating in China, claimed the report.

State news also suggested that The Intermediate People's Court in Shijiazhuang sentenced three other former executives of the Sanlu company to serve jail terms of between 5 to 15 years for their suspected involvement.

Melamine scare

The contamination scandal was related to the presence of the industrial chemical melamine in milk products, linked to the hospitalisation of thousands of Chinese children as well a number of deaths.

Melamine is a chemical that can make it appear there is more protein in a product, and has been linked to causing kidney stones and other health problems.

The scandal has since led to food and beverage products sourced from the country being pulled from shelves around the world over safety fears, leading to a number of multinationals having to review their operations in the country.

Europe-based Arla Foods announced in October that production of milk powders through its China-based joint venture had recommenced, after the installation of new testing systems for production in the country.

Production at the Mengniu Arla milk powder plant in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, had been out of commission since 16 September when news of the scandal first emerged, the group said at the time.

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