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At least two babies have died and 1,253 have been hospitalized
At least two babies have died and 1,253 have been hospitalized after being fed contaminated milk powder, the China Daily reported on Tuesday.

The newspaper quoted Health Minister Chen Zhu as saying that the number of victims could rise sharply in the coming days as more parents take their children for check ups. Authorities also fear a possible rise in the death toll, with 53 babies currently reported to be suffering from kidney stones.

The two dead children are a five-month-old boy and eight-month-old girl. They both died of kidney failure in Gansu, after their parents reportedly rejected further treatment. There are no further details at present as to why the parents would have done this.

The crisis began on September 11 when dozens of babies in several Chinese provinces were diagnosed with kidney stones. An investigation revealed that all of them had been fed with the same brand of baby food, Sanlu.

Tests subsequently revealed the presence of melamine, a chemical compound banned for use in food processing. Melamine causes severe kidney damage if ingested.

Further investigation revealed that all the contaminated milk came from a single milk collection center in Hebei. The two brothers who owned the center were subsequently detained.

During questioning, the elder brother confessed that he had begun adding melamine to his milk after Sanlu refused to buy his products, saying it failed to meet their quality standards. He then began mixing the substance into the milk to make it appear rich in protein.

He also said that his own family had never consumed the milk.

"I've never thought about it, I only knew that that milk is bad for your health," the China Daily quoted him as saying.

Seventeen other people have also been detained in connection with supplying the milk powder.

The Sanlu Group Chinese dairy giant said in a statement that it had produced over 10,000 metric tons of the dangerous milk powder and that it would recall all its products produced before August 6.

This is not the first time the company has been involved in a food quality incident. In 2004, 13 children from the eastern Anhui Province died of malnutrition due to bootleg Sanlu milk powder.

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