Death Toll Rises in China's Contaminated Milk Scandal བོད་སྐད།

Chinese authorities say four people have now died after drinking contaminated infant formula, as more people have been detained in the scandal.

The latest fatality occurred in the remote western region of Xinjiang. Officials have not said whether the newest victim was a baby, as were the first three fatalities.

More than 6,000 babies across China were sickened when they drank formula that contained the chemical melamine. It is believed the manufacturer used the chemical to give watered-down milk the appearance of having high protein levels.

China's health minister Chen Zhu says 158 of the country's sick infants are suffering from acute kidney failure.

Meanwhile, another 12 people have been arrested in Hebei province in connection with the scandal, bringing the total number of arrests to 18.

The province is home to Sanlu Group, the company where the tainted formula was produced. The group's chairwoman, Tian Wenhua, has been dismissed from her post and is being detained by authorities. The mayor of Shijiazhuang city, where Sanlu is based, has also been fired, along with four other officials.

Six of those arrested allegedly sold the chemical, while the other 12 were suppliers accused of contaminating the milk.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has ordered the recall of dairy products made by China-based Yili Foods after eight out of 30 of its products tested positive for melamine, including milk, yogurt and ice-cream.

China's Health Ministry has pledged free health care to all children sickened by the tainted milk. The government also has stationed 1400 inspection teams at dairy-producing enterprises across the country. It has pledged to increase inspection of all dairy products, as well as imported and exported feed, for the presence of melamine.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.