Timeline For China's Tainted Milk Scandal

By English Edition Staff
Published: 2008-09-23

As of 8am, Sept 21, a total of 52,857 babies in China have been sickened by consuming melamine-laced infant milk formula and received medical attention, according to a statement from China's Health Ministry.

Of the number, 12,892 babies remained hospitalized and 104 in severe condition, and four deaths confirmed thus far. Following the scandal, at least seven Chinese officials have been removed, including the quality control chief.

Below is the timeline for major development of the widening scandal that has sparked fear beyond China.

Sept 11: China's Health Ministry announced that infant milk formula produced by Shijiazhuang-based Sanlu Dairy Group was contaminated by industrial chemical melamine.

Sept 12: China's Health Ministry confirmed melamine-tainted milk powder caused babies to develop kidney stones after consuming.

Sept 13: Chinese government officials disclosed 19 were detained and 78 questioned in relation to the tainted milk scandal. The raw milk collection phase was suspected as the source of pollution, as adding melamine to water-down milk could apparently boost protein content during quality checks.

Sept 16: Chinese quality control watchdog inspected infant milk formula made by 109 local enterprises, products from 22 companies tested positive for melamine, including well known brands like Hong Kong-listed Mengniu and Olympics sponsor Yili. Products recall ordered.

Four local officials of Shijiazhuang sacked (see list below).

Sept 17: Police in Hebei province had thus far arrested 18 suspects, of whom, six allegedly sold melamine to milk dealers, and 12 were milk dealers who added the chemical to milk and sold the tainted milk to dairy companies.

Sept 18: China revoked special status of food companies bestowed with "inspection-exemption" certificates after some of the previlege-holders made it into the list of companies with melamine-tainted products.

Sept 19: China's quality control watchdog widened checks on liquid milk products - including packaged milk and yogurt. Products from three companies with major market shares - Mengniu, Yili, and Bright Dairy tested positive for melamine.

Sept 20: Singapore banned all dairy products from China after tested melamine in Dutch Lady's strawberry flavored milk produced in China.

Malaysia followed suit. The ban was later widened to cover confectionery products after Singapore detected melamine in Chinese made milk-based candy named the White Rabbit.

African nations Gabon and Tazania also imposed ban.

Sept 21: Hong Kong's government said a local girl developed a kidney stone after drinking melamine tainted milk from China, the first known illness outside mainland China. Major supermarkets in the island removed Chinese made dairy products.

Sept 22: Taiwan, Philippines, Brunei and Burundi banned all dairy products from China.

Official investigation held Sanlu Group's top management personnel responsible for criminal offence. Chinese officials said the company had received consumers' complaints since December 2007 but delayed in taking action and keeping the authorities informed. 

Shijiazhuang local government officials were also at fault, as they were informed in early August but failed to alert the provincial government and the State Council until 38 days later.

China's quality watchdog chief stepped down (see list below).

Sept 23: Chinese officials disclosed that thus far, 1.7 million enforcers were deployed to deal with the tainted-milk problem, with 5,729 tons of tained products taken off the shelves. The authorities had received 242,000 related consumers' complaints.

Chinese Officials Removed:

Sept 22:
Li Changjiang
, 64, director of China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine resigned. Li had held the post since April 2001. He was replaced by Wang Yong, 53, who left his post of deputy secretary-general of the State Council.

Wu Xianguo, 52, was dismissed as secretary of the Shijiazhuang Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital of Hebei in north China, is where the Sanlu Dairy Group based and the tainted milk scandal erupted.

Sept 17:
Ji Chuntang, Shijizhuang mayor was removed from his post. One day earlier, he was dismissed as vice-secretary of the municipal committee of CPC.

Sept 16:
Four local officials of Shijiazhuang were dismissed, including Zhang Fawang, vice mayor in charge of agricultural production; Sun Renhu, head of animal husbandry and fishery bureau; Zhang Yi, director of food and drug administration; and Li Zhiguo, head of quality supervision bureau.

(Source: Chinese government official website, Xinhua News, and wire agencies)

Public Reactions:

"The moment I heard of the scandal, I rushed to the supermarket and bought two boxes (24 cans) of imported milk powder, because I reckon the prices may go up as Chinese deserting local brands and demand for foreign products soar." -- Beijing resident Li Xiaodan, mother of an eight-month-old boy.

"China has successfully rid of chemistry illiteracy through food eduction;
we have learned of paraffin wax from rice;
we have learned of DDVP (Dichlorvos) from hams;
we have learned of Sudan dyes from salted eggs and chili sauce;
we have learned of formalin from hotpot;
we have learned of sulfur from dates and white fungus;
we have learned of copper sulfate from black fungus;
and today, Sanlu Group has taught us melamine and its chemistry reaction." -- a popular rhymes widely circulated by Chinese netizens and through sms.