Wen Jiabao

Baby-milk probe set to point blame

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 May, 2004, 12:00am

Anhui officials to be accountable for infant deaths

Officials in Anhui will be held accountable for the substandard milk powder linked to the deaths of at least 16 mainland babies, the provincial vice-governor has vowed.

At a press conference during an official visit to Hong Kong yesterday, Wen Haiying said an investigation was under way to determine which officials would take responsibility for the scandal.

'Some administration departments and officials must be held responsible and we will definitely follow up on this,' Ms Wen said. She said substandard milk powder was still on sale in Anhui until the scandal broke last month, despite the problem being uncovered last year when about 30 brands were blacklisted.

Ms Wen said the investigation and follow-up in the case was 'not thorough' and failed to stop the sale of the milk formula that had only a fraction of the required protein.

She said several government departments could be held responsible, including the local administration for Industry and Commerce and the health department.

The central government has forced a spate of resignations among local officials in recent weeks. Last month, Premier Wen Jiabao said government officials should step down for serious mistakes or accidents in their jurisdictions.

Ms Wen said the milk powder seized in Anhui was imported from other provinces. She did not say how many infants have been affected in the province, which is believed to be the worst hit. Substandard milk powder has also been found in Zhejiang , Guangdong, Henan , Hunan , Hubei , Jiangxi , Beijing and Shanghai.

She said the Anhui government had learned a lesson from the scandal and was establishing a product-monitoring system while drafting laws to better protect consumers.

Prosecutors in Fuyang , the city in Anhui where most of the baby deaths occurred, have so far detained 45 people and arrested five suspects. On Tuesday, 30 enterprises and supermarkets in the city pledged to trade honestly in a bid to revive consumer confidence.