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FACTBOX: Scares and scandal to plague "made in China" brand

September 18, 2008

(Reuters) - China's mounting toxic milk scandal, in which three infants have died and more than 6,000 have fallen ill, has triggered sackings and detentions and seen the government denounce the dairy industry as chaotic.

The scandal has revived memories of a fake milk formula tragedy four years ago in which at least 13 babies died, and follows a spate of product safety scares in recent years.

Here is an overview of scares involving China-made products that have caused concern inside the country and internationally:


-- Three babies have died and thousands of infants treated for kidney stones or other illnesses in recent weeks after consuming several brands of infant milk formula found to have been contaminated with melamine.

In 2004, at least 13 babies died of malnutrition after being fed fake milk powder that contained no nutrients.


-- Thousands dogs and cats fell ill and more than 200 died in the United States after Chinese suppliers were discovered to have added melamine in wheat gluten and rice protein to exported pet food in 2007. More than 100 pet food brands were recalled in North America in March 2007.


-- Two brands of Chinese toothpaste were banned in the Dominican Republic in May 2007 because of fears that they contain the lethal chemical diethylene glycol, which was held responsible for mass poisoning deaths in Panama in 2006. At least 100 people in Panama are thought to have died after consuming toxic, mislabeled drugs in cough syrups from China.


-- In November 2006, Hong Kong and several Chinese cities were rocked by a scare over duck eggs tainted with Sudan IV, a cancer-causing red dye. The dye was mixed with chicken feed to make purportedly extra nutritious "red yolk" eggs redder, and therefore more expensive.

In February 2007, a factory manager in southwest Chongqing region was arrested for producing chili powder tainted with the same toxic dye, and two cosmetics firms were also closed for selling lipsticks containing the dye.


-- China-made frozen dumplings contaminated with pesticide made 10 Japanese sick and strained relations between the neighbors in February 2008. The cause of the contamination is still under dispute.


-- Chinese-made heparin, a blood thinner, has been blamed for fatalities and adverse reactions in U.S. and German patients. In the United States, tainted heparin from China was used by at least 81 patients who died, prompting a recall by Baxter International Inc.


-- Several fish farms in eastern Shandong province breeding turbot, a popular type of flatfish, were fined and ordered to suspend sales in December 2006 after traces of cancer-causing chemicals including malachite green were detected in samples.


-- The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recalled as many as 450,000 tires made by China's second-largest tire maker, Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. Ltd, in June 2007.

It reported that the tires, used on sport-utility vehicles, vans and trucks, could fail at highway speeds because of an insufficient or missing gum strip. The company rebuffed the accusations.


-- The world's largest toymaker, Mattel, recalled more than 18 million made-in-China toys a year ago because of hazards from small, powerful magnets that can cause injury if swallowed, just two weeks after it recalled 1.5 million toys due to fears about lead paint.

Source: Reuters (Compiled by Gillian Murdoch and Beijing newsroom; Editing by Nick Macfie and Valerie Lee)

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