08/11/2010, 00.00
CHINA
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Chinese powdered milk accused of causing premature breast growth in baby girls

At least four infants fed with Synutra powdered milk have the same level of hormones as an adult woman. Now the authorities have started an inspection. China’s Synutra and New Zealand's Fonterra play the blame game .

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - There is great concern and uncertainty about a new scandal that has hit the powdered milk industry in China. The Chinese Minister of Health has ordered careful checks in Hubei on a product that is accused of causing premature breast development in newborn baby girls.

On August 9, it emerged that three baby girls between 4 and 15 months of Wuhan, Hubei, have the level of hormones or even higher than that of an adult woman. A similar case was found in an infant in Beijing. The blame is being laid on the powder milk formula produced by the Chinese firm Synutra International, which the baby girls were feeding on.

Synutra has stated that its product does not use illegal substances, that it is "100% sure" that its milk is safe and has denounced what it calls a conspiracy to defame it. The company also added that the raw material is all imported from New Zealand multinational Fonterra, already partners in the Chinese company Sanlu at the centre of the melamine milk scandal in September 2008. At the time it was found that 22 leading Chinese dairy companies "enriched" their milk with melamine, a substance poisonous to humans but that makes food appear rich in nutrients: the adulteration caused at least six deaths and left 300 thousand babies with kidney problems.

Fonterra said today that its milk is completely safe and subjected to constant checks and that the Synutra has other Chinese suppliers for milk and whey imports from Europe.

Meanwhile in Guangzhou many hospitals no longer use milk from Synutra, following large protests by parents of newborns.

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