28 Dec 2008

Compensation for milk victims in China

2:35 pm on 28 December 2008

Dairy companies involved in a tainted milk scandal in China are to compensate the families of the victims. At least six babies died and almost 300,000 children were affected.

Quoting the China Dairy Industry Association, the State-owned news agency Xinhua reported on Saturday that 22 companies will make an undisclosed one-off cash payment to the families.

The first defendants are on trial accused of making and selling melamine.

The industrial chemical was added to milk to make it appear high in protein, and sold to major dairy companies, which failed to test the milk for purity and nutritional value.

Xinhua also said the companies have agreed to create a fund to cover the medical bills for any potential after-effects of the poisoning.

Among the firms to make payments will be Sanlu, which has been declared bankrupt.

Sanlu is partly owned by the Fonterra group of New Zealand. No other companies were listed.

So far, the courts have been rejecting lawsuits filed by families seeking compensation.

Lawyers for the families have criticised this pay-out plan, saying it was drawn up behind closed doors without the victims' input.

Court hearings begin

A man accused of making 600 tonnes of "protein powder" composed mainly of melamine - with a sale value of almost $US1 million - appeared in court on Friday.

On trial with him was a colleague accused of selling the powder. Four others are being tried for adding it to dairy products.

The BBC reports these are the first cases to come to court.

Correspondents say other defendants are likely to face more serious charges, and could be executed if found guilty.

The scandal was disclosed in September.