December 30, 2008 in Nation/World

Dairies to compensate babies’ families

By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN Associated Press
 

BEIJING – The companies whose tainted milk products sickened nearly 300,000 children and were blamed in the deaths of six will likely pay 1.1 billion yuan ($160 million) in compensation to victims, a state-run newspaper said today.

Details of the compensation plan came after trials began for 15 people on charges related to the production and sale of melamine, an industrial chemical added to milk to boost protein readings.

According to the newspaper China Daily, the 22 companies blamed in the scandal will make a one-time 900 million yuan ($131 million) cash payment to victims.

The remaining 200 million yuan would cover lingering health costs, the paper said, citing an unnamed source from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission.

Details roughly correspond to figures provided by lawyers seeking to sue the companies involved, who said that most children who suffered kidney stones would get 2,000 yuan ($290), while sicker children would be paid 30,000 yuan ($4,380).

Families of children who died will each get 200,000 yuan ($29,000), China Daily said.

At least six babies died and 294,000 other children suffered kidney and urinary problems from drinking formula made from the contaminated milk.

The compensation plan – originally announced Saturday – and the trials of those blamed for the contamination appear to signal that authorities hope to end what was seen as a national disgrace highlighting widespread problems with food safety and corporate and governmental malfeasance.

Four of the suspects on trial could be given the death penalty, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. The four face charges of endangering public safety for allegedly producing 200 tons of a mixture of melamine and malt dextrin, a food additive made from starch, that they marketed to milk producers, according to reports.

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