China’s Ministry of Health announced yesterday that six infants may have died in the country’s tainted-milk scandal, up from the previously declared total of three, the state-run Xinhua news service reported. The number of children sickened also grew dramatically from 60,000 to 294,000. Their illnesses were caused by the illegal addition of melamine, an industrial chemical used in making plastics that can show the protein content of inferior milk to appear artificially high. When consumed it can cause kidney problems.
The new official death toll comes after weeks of no updates. And it raises further questions. Last month the Associated Press reported on eight cases of infants who died of kidney failure after drinking powdered milk from Sanlu, the dairy producer at the heart of the crisis. The AP reported cited “families, medical records or state media accounts” as its sources. The government, of course, has access to more information than a news service. But not only did it take weeks longer to get its information out, it also hasn’t explained why its number is lower than what has been previously reported.
But no sense getting too worried over this. As Xinhua tells us: “Most of the sick children were found to have only sand-like stones in their urinary systems.” Only?