September 21, 2008 / 11:10 AM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 3-HK girl treated after drinking tainted milk

(Recasts with melamine in Nestle products; Hong Kong supermarkets recalling milk powder; changes dateline)

HONG KONG, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Hong Kong supermarkets pulled some milk powder products from their shelves on Sunday and a 3-year-old girl was found to have a kidney stone after drinking tainted milk — the territory’s first suspected victim of a health scare sweeping China.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) meanhwile said it was helping China to investigate contamination of milk products by melamine, a chemical that can cause kidney stones and lead to renal failure among children.

China last week ordered checks on dairy products and a nationwide recall of suspect items in a spreading scandal that has killed four children and caused thousands more to fall ill.

Hong Kong health authorities said in a statement the girl, who had consumed Yili brand milk daily for the past 15 months, was found to have a kidney stone.

However, she did not have any symptons of disease and was discharged from hospital on Saturday.

Some of Hong Kong’s main supermarkets yanked Nestle NESN.VX milk powder from shelves after a newspaper reported it contained melamine, a nitrogen-rich compound that can be added to watered-down milk to help it pass quality inspections.

The move was a precautionary measure, Wellcome spokeswoman Annie Sin said.

The Swiss food group said it was confident none of its products were made with melamine-laced milk. Tests done by government-approved labs showed the product in question was melamine-free, it said.

But Hong Kong’s food safety centre said later tests showed that another product, Nestle Dairy Farm Pure Milk, contained the harmful substance. It said the product was used by caterers.

“Based on the low level detected, normal consumption will not pose major health effects. However, it is not advisable for small children to consume the milk product,” a food safety spokesman said.

It has asked suppliers to stop selling the product and to recall it, the spokesman said.

Nestle declined to comment on the food safety centre report.

IMPROVE CAPACITY

Yili Industrial Group Co (600887.SS), the Sanlu Group — China’s largest infant milk powder maker — and 19 other dairy producers said it would improve the quality of its products and compensate victims, state media said.

The WHO said it was helping China resolve the problems.

“The capacity for quality control and also the surveillance, reporting systems and laboratory testing in the area must be improved,” Shigeru Omi, WHO regional director told reporters.

Brunei’s health ministry banned imports of Chinese milk products even though the country does not directly import any dairy from China. The ban took effect after similar moves by Singapore and Malaysia on Friday.

A government food quality watchdog in China has said nearly 10 percent of milk and drinking yoghurt samples from three major dairy companies contained potentially deadly melamine. (Reporting by Jeffrey Hodgson, Edwin Chan and John Ruwitch in Hong Kong, Kirby Chien in Beijing, David Chance in Kuala Lumpur and by Manny Mogato in Manila; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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