October 9, 2008 / 1:02 AM / 11 years ago

China says 10,700 children in hospital over milk

BEIJING (Reuters) - Nearly 10,700 Chinese infants and children were still in hospital after drinking toxic milk and milk formula, China said on Thursday, but urged foreign customers to take a “scientific” approach to the safety of its products.

A child undergoes a medical check for possible kidney stones at a hospital in Shanghai September 27, 2008. Up to five percent of young infants in Shanghai could have kidney stones after drinking tainted milk formula, local media reported on Friday, as publicity surrounding the scandal is muted by China's manned space mission. REUTERS/Nir Elias

The country is still wrestling with a tainted milk scandal that has killed four babies, made tens of thousands more ill and affected products around the world.

But it has rushed to assure buyers abroad and at home that the government is back in control and has closed the loopholes that allowed the industrial chemical melamine, used in making plastics and in pesticides, to get into milk.

“Every country has to ensure the food safety and the health of its domestic consumers,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular briefing on Thursday.

“But we also need to find an objective, scientific approach to handle and analyze this problem,” he said, adding that foreign customers would recover their confidence in Chinese food exports as control measures are strengthened.

No more infants had died from the tainted milk, the health ministry said in the latest information on its website.

Eight of the 10,666 children still in hospital on Wednesday were in serious condition, it said, adding that altogether 36,144 had left the hospital after being treated for kidney problems.

It did not give an overall figure for the number of children affected so far, but reports from local media across the country compiled by Reuters suggest that the number of affected children has risen to nearly 94,000.

The last previous update was on September 21, when it said that 12,892 children were being treated. While the number of children in hospital is declining, new cases are still cropping up.

The ministry said that on Wednesday alone, 539 children were admitted to hospital after drinking melamine-laced milk, while 2,067 others checked out after being treated.

Abroad, products pulled because of melamine tainting or worries about it range from candies and biscuits to milk tea.

Beijing is willing to work with the world on food safety, Qin said, after singling out Brazil as an example of foreign fear because the South American nation had restricted imports of Chinese dairy products.

“Food safety is a problem and also a challenge to the ... world. China is willing to have relevant cooperation with other countries,” he added.

Reporting by Jason Subler and Huang Yan; Writing by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Nick Macfie and Paul Tait

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