Saturday, January 24, 2009

End of the Melamine-Tainted Milk Scandal?

Photo Courtesy: BBC News

Two men have been sentenced to death, one has been given life in prison and 19 others have been given lengthy prison terms as a result of the tainted milk scandal in China that killed at least six children and sickened at least 300,000 others. Some of these children will be left with disabilities for the rest of their lives from drinking this milk.

From Reuters:

One of the men sentenced to death was Zhang Yujun, who had made and sold over 600 tons of "protein powder" laced with melamine between October 2007 and August 2008, the official China Daily quoted prosecutors as saying earlier this month.

The powder was bought by middlemen who added it to pooled, watered-down milk from farmers that were then sold on to Sanlu. One of these men was also given the death sentence.

A third man was given a suspended death sentence, which usually means life in prison on good behavior. Other defendants received from five years to life imprisonment.

Melamine is an industrial chemical used in the production of plastic. However; when added to watered-down foods such as milk, it causes a false positive when tested for protein.

In an effort to prevent this kind of scandal from ever happening again, scientists have developed a test for melamine in milk. Researchers at Purdue University announced yesterday that their test can detect "tiny traces of the chemical" in about 25 seconds.

Zhao Lianhai, a parent who has rallied families through a Web site he created that details the crisis, said Friday that he and three others were presenting a petition to the Ministry of Health.

The petition, signed by some 550 parents, calls for free medical care and follow-up services for all victims, reimbursement for treatment already paid for, and further research into the long-term health effects of melamine among other demands. In my estimation, his requests are entirely too humble. Read his words.

"Children are the future of every family; and, moreover, they are the future of this country," the petition said. "As consumers, we have been greatly damaged."

State television reported Friday that the majority of the families had already settled with the 22 dairies responsible for the contamination under the umbrella of a government-led plan.

The report only confirms the communist leadership's eagerness to bring an end to the embarrassing scandal. What better way to do this than painting the parents who were rejecting the payments as out of step with the majority and fringe elements.

Jiang Yaling, a parent from Guizhou, said the parents who are asking for a better deal held a meeting with several Health Ministry officials on Friday. She said the officials pledged to "respect our petition" and process it quickly.

"It's not a matter of what the officials say to us; but, it's a matter of what they do. If these demands are not met, my child could have a life span of only 10 years. What kind of life is that? My child is my everything," Jiang said.

At this point my heart squeezes so hard I can feel it thumping inside my chest. As a mother, I can feel her pain in her last five words “My child is my everything”. If the grief of losing a child didn't kill me, knowing that I had fed them the milk that caused either their death or disability probably would. I know household pets that receive better treatment than these children and their families have received.

More on the settlements and; definitely, much more indignation next blog.

No comments: