China investigates claims of link between suspicious infant formula and children’s swollen heads

Society & Culture

This week, China’s dairy industry has been rocked by another baby milk scandal, which involved a string of claims by parents in Chenzhou, Hunan Province, that their children developed deformed heads after being given a protein drink sold as an infant formula.

Since the tainted infant formula scandal in 2008, which killed at least six children and sickened more than 300,000 in China, domestic brands of baby milk formula have been struggling to repair their reputation as Chinese parents have become increasingly careful about what to feed their children.

This week, China’s dairy industry has been rocked by another baby milk scandal, which involved a string of claims by parents in Chenzhou, Hunan Province, that their children developed deformed heads after being given a protein drink sold as an infant formula.

Five babies who consumed the baby milk formula for months have been diagnosed with rickets after showing various signs of vitamin deficiency, such as unusual swellings on their foreheads and drastic loss of weight. According to their parents, after they discovered that their children were allergic to dairy, doctors in a local hospital introduced them to a baby product store where sales assistants convinced them to purchase a powdered beverage product named Bei An Min. The parents said they were told the product was a milk formula substitute, but it turned out to lack necessary nutrients for infants.

The State Administration of Market Regulation, China’s antitrust authority, said in a statement (in Chinese) today that it was “paying close attention” to the matter and ordered its Hunan branch to “thoroughly investigate” the claims.

In an interview (in Chinese) with Beijing News, a spokesperson from the company that produced the questionable baby milk said that the product was safe for regular consumers and everything about it was in line with government regulations. The person also claimed that the company was unaware of its product being marketed as infant formula to parents.

Meanwhile, Sixth Tone noted that a similar infant formula scandal occurred in Chenzhou about six months ago, when “several parents accused doctors at Chenzhou No. 1 People’s Hospital of making under-the-table deals with a local baby products store to promote hypoallergenic infant formula sold there.”