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Chinese babies die from fake infant formula

Laura Sullivan Associated Press

BEIJING — Police have detained 47 people accused of making or selling fake infant formula that led to the deaths of dozens of children in an eastern Chinese city, the government said Monday.

The deaths prompted a national crackdown on safety violations in China’s food and drug markets, where phony medicines and other products regularly cause deaths and injuries.

State media say 50 to 60 children, mostly from poor farm families, died of malnutrition in the city of Fuyang after being fed the formula, which contained only tiny amounts of nutrients.

Among those detained, 24 have been formally arrested, according to a statement by the Fuyang city government. In China’s legal system, nearly all suspects who are arrested are later convicted.

The detentions were announced at a public ceremony Sunday where authorities destroyed 4,425 seized boxes of counterfeit formula, according to the statement.

It didn’t identify those detained or give details of the charges. People who answered the telephone at the Fuyang prosecutor’s office and its Communist Party branch wouldn’t give more information.

Authorities earlier announced that they had detained five wholesalers who supplied the counterfeit formula sold through village grocery stores on the outskirts of Fuyang.

State television reported earlier that fake milk powder and undernourished infants had also been found in the neighboring provinces of Shandong and Henan.

State media say as many as 200 babies who were fed the formula developed what Chinese doctors called “big head disease,” causing their heads to swell while their bodies wasted away.

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