Taiwan reports 5 new melamine victims
Number of cases of children with kidney stones is growing
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
Page 3
2008-09-26 01:28 AM
Amid confusion over the government's overnight loosening of safety standards for melamine-tainted food stuffs, hospitals yesterday reported a growing number of cases of children who might have contracted kidney stones by eating contaminated products. After a two-year-old girl showing a hardening kidney was found in Taichung County on Wednesday, several similar cases surfaced yesterday.

In Ilan County, the local campus of the Yangming University Hospital said four cases of kidney stones had been discovered, but drinking water and stopping the consumption of contaminated products would likely be enough to cure the patients.

Two children, a one-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl who had drunk a little-known brand of milk product their mother had brought from Hong Kong for a year were the first two cases, the hospital said. The other two were a mother from China and her three-year-old daughter. The mother had been consuming Chinese milk for years, and had also regularly brought the same brand home for her daughter, the hospital said.

A 30-year-old woman from Yunlin County who said she drank two to four bags of instant coffee a day showed symptoms of hardening kidneys, doctors at the local campus of National Taiwan University Hospital said.

Islandwide, doctors found 11 people with kidney stones, though none of the cases can as yet be directly linked to the consumption of tainted dairy products, the Department of Health said.

Department hospitals have been giving free tests for kidney stones to children and adults who think they might have contracted health problems caused by consuming too many contaminated products.

The confusion over which products were harmful and which not became worse Wednesday night when the Department of Health announced it was relaxing its safety standards. Products will now be allowed to contain up to 2.5 parts per million, instead of none at all. The Department of Health said it was following standards set by the United States and Hong Kong. The change allowed products from two suppliers, Fan Sheng and Liu Ho Chemical, to continue to be sold, despite other products still being forced off the shelves by Wednesday 10 p.m. Two other suppliers, Sanyi and Chia Tai, saw their products stay on the banned list.

Because of the policy change, health inspectors had to visit warehouses and unseal bags they had sealed as unsafe for consumption only days earlier. The unexpected relaxation of standards provoked strong protests from experts and local government officials alike. The Consumers Foundation said that allowing even a little melamine might harm both consumers and Taiwan's exporters. Humans might also ingest melamine by eating animals that had been fed products contaminated by the chemical, the foundation said.

Consumers in other countries with more stringent standards might also look with suspicion on products from Taiwan if they knew melamine was allowed on the island, even in small doses, according to the foundation.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), a member of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, said she would not challenge the central government but would demand manufacturers list the amount of melamine on their packaging.

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