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China says no evidence milk powder caused infant breasts

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 15, 2010
China's health ministry said Sunday an investigation had found no evidence that milk powder produced by a Chinese company caused three infant girls to grow breasts.

The clinical investigation found the hormone levels in the baby formula were within the normal range, health ministry spokesman Deng Haihua told a news conference in Beijing, according to a transcript on the ministry's website.

Authorities in the central province of Hubei had been ordered to investigate milk powder after parents and doctors expressed fears that hormones in the formula made by NASDAQ-listed Synutra had caused babies to develop breasts.

Local food safety authorities had earlier refused a parent's request to investigate the formula, saying they did not conduct tests at consumers' behest, state media reported.

Tests indicated the level of hormones in three girls, ranging in age from four months to 15 months, who were fed the formula exceeded those of the average adult woman, the China Daily reported last week.

A fourth case was reported in Beijing, Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

The ministry said previously that medical experts were assisting a separate investigation into the cause of the infants' condition.

Food safety experts led by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention had tested the residue of milk powder consumed by the three infants, as well 42 samples of Synutra products on the market and 31 samples of dairy products from other producers, Deng said.

Deng said the level of hormone additives found in the sample products were within safe limits.

Doctors who examined the three infants also found their premature development was not serious, Deng told reporters.

Synutra, based in the eastern city of Qingdao, had insisted in a statement that its products were safe and that no man-made hormones or illegal substances had been added during production.

The company on Sunday welcomed the findings and pledged to set up a 10 million-yuan (1.5 million-dollar) fund to help finance research into "precocious puberty."

New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra said last week it was "100 percent confident" in its milk supplies to Synutra.

Synutra's shares plunged nearly 30 percent in New York over the course of last week on the news -- with a 27 percent drop on Monday, their steepest fall since China's tainted milk scandal two years ago.

Chinese dairy products were recalled worldwide in 2008 after it was found that melamine, which is used to make plastics, was widely and illegally added to the products to give the appearance of higher protein.

Melamine was found in the products of 22 Chinese dairy companies in a massive scandal blamed for the deaths of at least six infants and for sickening 300,000 others in China.

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