China dairy boss on trial amid new melamine scare

The chairwoman of the Chinese company at the heart of a tainted milk scandal that has killed at least six children and made thousands ill went on trial in China today, facing a maximum penalty of death.





Tian Wenhua, 66-year-old former general manager of the now bankrupt Sanlu Group, appeared with three other company executives at a court in Shijiazhuang, capital of northern Hebei province, charged with producing and selling milk contaminated with melamine.



Melamine, an industrial compound used in making plastic chairs, countertops, plates, flame retardants and even concrete, has been added to food to cheat nutrition tests due to its high nitrogen content.



Another 17 people involved in producing, selling, buying and adding melamine in raw milk have gone on trial in the last week.



"(Tian) may face a maximum penalty of death for producing and selling contaminated baby milk food, along with three of her senior managers at the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court," the China Daily said today.



Executives at Sanlu, partly owned by New Zealand's Fonterra group, have been accused of covering up evidence that Chinese children had developed kidney stones and other complications from drinking milk adulterated with melamine for months before the scandal broke in September.



At least six children have died and more than 290,000 made ill from the contaminated milk, battering already dented faith in China-made products and prompting massive recalls around the world.



Tian told the court today she learned about the tainted milk complaints from consumers in mid-May, Xinhua news agency quoted her as saying.



The company set up a working team led by Tian to handle the case, but did not submit a written report about the milk powder to the Shijiazhuang city government until 2 August, Tian said.



The Shijiazhuang government did not report the case to higher government authorities until a month later, prompting speculation authorities sought to avoid a scandal upsetting Beijing's Olympic Games in August.







China, seeking to restore battered credibility in its food, drugs and products, is likely to pass stiff sentences if the four are found guilty.



Zheng Xiaoyu, former head of the food and drug watchdog, the State Food and Drug Administration, was executed last year for taking bribes and dereliction of duty in the wake of a series of drug safety scandals.



In the lead-up to the high-profile trial and after repeated promises that China has put a lid on the problem, fresh quality scares have surfaced.



The melamine scare has also prompted quality inspectors to test tableware "following reports that some products contained poisonous ingredients", Xinhua said today in a separate report.



More than 1,500 boxes of Chinese biscuits exported to Hong Kong and Singapore had also tested positive for melamine, local media reported yesterday.



China's Health Ministry today promised to build a "pre-emptive" monitoring system to stamp out the use of black-listed non-food additives that have led to health scares involving eggs, seafoods, and sweets in recent years.



"We used to rely on crackdowns (to solve food problems) ... but now we are combining punishment with prevention with more stress on the latter," Su Zhi, a senior quality supervision official in the Ministry of Health, told Xinhua.



But the baby milk formula scandal has also opened up a festering debate about appropriate compensation for victims and their families.



Along with Sanlu, 21 other local dairy companies that were found to have produced melamine-tainted milk have pledged 1.1 billion yuan ($161m) to compensate victims and cover medical costs for affected children, a report posted on the Dairy Association of China website said.



Some 900 million yuan would be paid in cash compensation to victims, and the rest placed in a fund for medical treatment, the report said.



But terms, which include a 2,000 yuan ($293) one-off payment for victims with "mild symptoms", have been greeted with scepticism.



"I'll never accept that amount," Wu Yanfang, a mother whose 16-month-old girl still has a stone in her kidney, told the China Daily.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Logistics Supervisor

£24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest supplier to the UK'...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Junior Software Developer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate/Junior Software Deve...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Store Sales Executive

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Sales Executive ...

Recruitment Genius: Night Porters - Seasonal Placement

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Night Porters are required to join a family-ow...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn