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China trials begin for 4 more accused in tainted milk scandal

[JURIST] Four criminal trials began Monday in China's Hebei province for persons accused of involvement in the country's recent melamine-tainted milk scandal. The four are generally accused [Xinhua report] in connection with the manufacture of two hundred tons of melamine-containing protein powder and adding it to raw milk before selling the mixture to Chinese dairies between November 2007 and August 2008. The formal charges against them have not been specified, however. The main dairy that purchased the additive was government-owned farm Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group Co., which was forced to cease production in September [Xinhua report]. The milk company filed for bankruptcy last Wednesday, and the petition was accepted by a court Friday [CNN reports], the same day that separate trials began [JURIST report] for six other producers of similar melamine-containing milk powder. Former Sanlu general manager and board chairwoman Tian Wenhua is scheduled to face trial on Wednesday. Earlier this month the Hebei Supreme Court rejected a class action suit [JURIST report] filed against Sanlu by the families of children who died or were harmed as a result of tainted milk.

News of possible milk powder contamination [JURIST news archive] by the chemical melamine first broke in September [Guardian report], following the death of an infant and reports that at least 50 other infants had fallen ill after consuming baby formula, leading to massive recalls [BBC report] of both liquid milk products and milk powders. To date, the Chinese Health Ministry has attributed the contamination to the deaths of six children, and at least 294,000 other children have been affected. On Saturday, the Chinese Dairy Industry Association [Light Industry backgrounder] announced that 22 companies will provide financial compensation to families whose infants were harmed by the contaminated milk. Families will receive a one-time payment of an unspecified amount, and may recover further for any future related medical expenses.

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