Over 10,000 Still Sick From China's Tainted Milk

More than 10,000 children remain hospitalized after being sickened in China's tainted milk scandal, as the government released rules on allowable levels of melamine.

BEIJING (AP) -- More than 10,000 children remain hospitalized after being sickened in China's tainted milk scandal, officials said, as the government released its first rules on allowable levels of the chemical blamed for the ailments.

The Health Ministry said in a statement on its Web site Wednesday that eight of the 10,666 children were in serious condition after drinking milk powder contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine, which can lead to kidney stones and life-threatening kidney failure.

No new deaths have been recorded, the ministry said. The scandal has so far been blamed for the deaths of four babies and the sickening of about 54,000 others in China.

But the effects of the scandal continue to be felt, forcing the government to deal with festering health and public relations issues. China's food exports have suffered significantly from the scandal, with more than 30 countries restricting Chinese dairy products, and in some cases all Chinese food exports.

Singapore's food safety agency said Thursday it found traces of melamine in three more Chinese-made products. It said the chemical was detected in samples of blueberry and chocolate flavored Cadbury Choclairs and Panda Dairy-brand Whole Milk Powder imported from China.

Hong Kong's food regulator said it found melamine in EDO Pack Almond Cacao Biscuit Sticks produced by Hong Kong company EDO Trading Co.

In Manila, a Philippine health official said Southeast Asian countries should review and strengthen regulations to shield their people from potentially harmful products that now move easily across borders in the era of free trade.

"Presently, our governments are confronted with the fear engendered by melamine milk products finding their way into our local markets," Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said at the opening of a meeting of health ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"Such is the trade-off of globalization -- that is a globalization without effective and coordinated global governance."

Chinese dairy suppliers have been accused of adding melamine -- used in plastics, paint and adhesives -- to watered-down milk to make the product appear rich in protein and fool quality control tests.

There had been no previous standards for the amount of the chemical allowed in food products.

Under Health Ministry guidelines released Wednesday, melamine is now limited to one part per million for infant formula and 2.5 parts per million for liquid milk, milk powder and food products that contain more than 15 percent milk.

Wang Xuening, a ministry official, said small amounts of melamine can leech from the environment and packaging into milk and other foods, but that deliberate tainting was explicitly forbidden.

Levels of melamine discovered in batches of milk powder recently registered as much as 6,196 parts per million.

The Finance Ministry said Thursday the government has allocated 300 million yuan (US$44 million) to help dairy farmers who have been badly hit by the declining demand for milk. Many farmers have been tossing out raw milk as they are squeezed by feed costs they cannot recoup.

Associated Press writers Jim Gomez in Manila, the Philippines, Alex Kennedy in Singapore, and Dikky Sinn in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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