Production at formula-scandal firm halted as sick babies rise to 432 Authorities yesterday ordered the state-owned company behind the mainland's tainted-milk scandal to halt production and revealed the number of babies known to have developed kidney stones from drinking its formula had risen sharply to 432. The Ministry of Health ordered all milk powder produced by the state-owned Sanlu Group withdrawn from sale and a nationwide investigation of all 175 baby formula producers. More than 8,000 tonnes of Sanlu baby formula have already been removed from shelves. 'This is a severe food safety accident. Sanlu Group should take a large part of the responsibility,' said ministry party secretary Gao Qiang . He blamed Sanlu, one of the oldest dairy brands in China, for keeping the crisis from the government and the public although the company had been receiving complaints from customers since March. Mr Gao denied the government had covered up the problem to avoid detracting from the Beijing Olympics. He said it only became aware on Monday that drinking the milk could cause kidney stones. Newspaper the Nanfang Daily has reported that an inquiry from a member of the public about the problem baby formula was on the website of the General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine on June 30, and parents have said they submitted milk samples for testing months ago. Sanlu, which is part-owned by New Zealand dairy group Fonterra and has 18 per cent of the mainland's baby formula market, admitted on Thursday that its formula had been contaminated with melamine, a chemical used in plastics, fertilisers and cleaning products. Police in Hebei , where Sanlu is based, have detained 19 people in connection with the case. Hebei vice-governor Yang Chongyong would not say whether Sanlu managers were among those held. Mr Gao said the authorities were still investigating at what point in the production process the baby formula was contaminated. The chemical was added to make the milk's protein content appear higher. Sanlu claimed farmers had added the chemical to their milk. A report carried by the website of Caijing magazine quoted dairy farmers who supplied milk to Sanlu as saying it was impossible for them to add the chemical to their milk. They said the milk processing was highly mechanised and tightly supervised by Sanlu staff. A Caijing reporter who visited several dairy farms confirmed the farmers' claim. Caijing's report said Sanlu had established very strict control of the farms and it was difficult for farmers to add chemicals into the milk behind the backs of company staff. One baby has died. The government has pledged to provide free treatment for others affected after being fed the milk. With many from poor rural families, it will send doctors to the countryside to help them. The contaminated Sanlu baby milk powder was sold only on the mainland and in Taiwan, Mr Gao said. Two hundred people lined up outside Sanlu's headquarters in Shijiazhuang yesterday to return company products. Some angry parents demanded to meet company officials but were barred from entering its offices. The baby formula scandal is the second to strike the mainland in four years. In 2004, 13 babies in Anhui died after drinking fake milk powder with no nutritional value.