[JURIST] Police in China detained five parents of children who became sick after drinking melamine-tainted milk [JURIST news archive], preventing the parents from participating in a Friday news conference. One of the parents said that they had been given no reason [Reuters report] for their detention. Other parents were allowed to host the news conference [AFP report], calling for research into the long-term effects of melamine [FDA backgrounder], which has sickened almost 300,000 children and killed at least six who drank contaminated milk. The Chinese Ministry of Health [official website] said it would continue to give free treatment [Xinhua report] to infants who have fallen ill after drinking tainted milk, and 22 Chinese dairy firms apologized to the public [Xinhua report] for the scandal via text message. Also on Friday, New Zealand dairy company Fonterra denied reports [Straits Times report] that Tian Wenhua, the head of its joint venture in China, had pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to charges related to tainted milk.
More than 17 defendants have faced criminal charges in connection with the contamination. The trial of four suspects began on Monday, and the trial of another six [JURIST reports] began last week. On Tuesday, it was announced [JURIST report] that Sanlu Group [Research and Markets profile] and 21 other dairy companies involved in the contamination were expected to pay $160 million to the families of injured children. News of possible milk powder contamination 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.