Kidney Stone Gate: Fake Baby Milk Powder, Sanlu & Baidu?

Since the first reported case in March, over 70 400 1200 6000 babies in China have developed kidney stones after drinking Sanlu brand milk powder. One baby has Two Four babies have already died.

Chinese babies with kidney stones due to Sanlu brand milk powder contaminated with melamine.

Sanlu initially claimed that their products have repeatedly past quality tests, meet national quality standards, and the sick babies must have been fed counterfeit milk powder that used their brand name. However, last night, the Ministry of Health pointed out that there is suspicion of melamine contamination last night. Melanine can be added to make food products appear to have more protein.

Minutes after the government announcement, Sanlu issued a recall of 700 tons of milk powder. They said they wanted to be responsible to their consumers, and also claimed that a self-inspection showed melamine contamination for all milk powder produced before August 6th.

In 2007, melamine was also the cause of the bad pet food. Some Chinese netizens have commented that now Chinese lives are worth less than the lives of American dogs and cats.

Sanlu is now blaming peasant milk farmers who provide the company with milk. Police have begun arresting milk farmers. However, many Chinese do not believe this. They wonder how can farmers know how to use melamine or how can this problem affect all of their milk powder and not just some of it.

Sanlu brand milk powder.

The Chinese internet exploded with outrage and anger against Sanlu last night. Major web portals like Sohu have set up special sections to report all the news and developments [08/09/14 UPDATE: No longer available, just one day later]. There are thousands of topics all over popular BBS forums like Tianya, Mop, KDS, Sohu, NetEase, etc.

Here are the results of a poll on Tianya right before September 12th midnight:

1. Will you continue to buy Sanlu milk powder in the future? (24,504 votes)

Hard to say.

2. Should Sanliu and similar national brands be protected? (25,446 votes)

Should not, let Sanlu and similar go die.
Should, national brands are not easy.
Whatever, none of my business.

3. How can contaminated milk powder still reach the market? (26,525 votes)

Government food safety supervision is incompetent.
Sanlu company itself has a serious problem.
Sanlu milk powder’s suppliers, milk stations are the culprits.
Completely a random accidental incident.
Supermarkets and other market distribution channels are responsible.

4. How can this information about Sanlu’s contaminated milk be communicated to the poor people in remote mountain areas? (27,697 votes)

Have it conveyed down the ranks through county villages cadres.
Have Sanlu employees go door to door.
Have netizens spontaneously go to the countryside to disseminate.

A Chinese baby with kidney stones caused by drinking cheap Sanlu baby forumla tainted with melamine.

There are tens of thousands of comments. Here are a few:

From Sohu (currently over 14,000 comments):

Let’s sue the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine [AQSIQ], a domestic animal that only takes company money and does not work for the ordinary people!

Promote breastfeeding, stop feeding milk powder.

Boycott Sanlu, let this low quality company disappear from the market.

Strongly urge everyone to criticize the AQSIQ, and for the victims to be highly compensated…if they are not strictly punished, it will be hard to please the masses!!! This is the so-called “exempt-from-inspection” product!

From the moment I heard this news, I watched how Sanlu would handle this crisis, really hoping they can recover,  since there actually are not many national brands. However, all I got was this kind of excuse. Forget it, a brand without even a bit of courage or basic sense of responsibility, is not worth it. Only by bravely bearing responsibility will there be a future, avoiding responsibility will only lead to doom! Angry!

You guys must not think the milk farmers have been wronged. Milk farmers adding stuff to milk is not a one day or two day affair. Starting from water, ice, and then to present-day chemicals, they are willing to do anything to make a bit more money. The desire to cheat by China’s peasants is something that cannot be changed. Adding water, ice, sugar are all things the factory can easily detect, usually a smell or a taste is enough to know the milk’s concentration. But adding these chemicals, it is hard for the factory to detect. As to what the consequences are, these milk farmers do not consider. They only know that they made a bit more money today. It is time to let these people pay the price.

Why are they inspecting only after something has happened? What do they normally do?

Gansu Health Department, where is your conscience? There were reports since early March, but they were all ignored!

San Lu Group is treating China’s future like a joke, so lamentable! The CEO should commit suicide!

I am willing to donate money to bring down this company that deserves to be out of business, to protect our consumers’ lives from being trampled again, otherwise, who knows who will be the serious victims next time?

When America’s Dupont company’s non-stick pan coating was suspected of being carcinogenic and not timely reported to the relevant American regulatory authorities, they were fined 200 million USD. Now, that was American imperialism. Let us see how our people’s government handles this.

Nothing more needs to be said, everyone join together, starve Sanlu, make it go bankrupt!!!

You motherfucking do not inspect. Unscrupulous milk farmers you guys do not inspect. Even mixed with arsenic you can also process into milk powder. You motherfucking bastard. I hope you go to hell and die drinking your own milk every day.

Sanlu milk powder destroyed a nation.

It is over for Sanlu. This is the sorrow of Chinese national companies, Chinese people’s sorrow. Because of this, a 10 billion RMB company collapses, several tens of thousands of workers lose their jobs, parents lose their children, leaving behind pain and suffering. How can society improve? Who do we blame?

Unscrupulous milk farmers adding poison, you Sanlu guys do not test?
You guys already knew the truth by August 1st, but you waited until today when people hae died before issue a recall of the milk powder?

Who are you kidding?! This kind of enterprise should be completely closed and bankrupted, enterprise leadership treating the ordinary people’s lives like a trivial matter should be taken out and shot!

I eat Sanlu yogurt, do not know what my body will be like in the future, I reserve the right to sue Sanlu Group in the future.

How do peasant farmers know how to add melamine to increase protein detection rate? What a joke!
Sanlu milk powder was in the list of poisonous milk powder found in Fuyang, Anhui province.
Sanlu was the General Administration of Quality Supervision and Inspection’s first batch of products that were not inspected. but are every batch of Sanlu products not inspected? As the General Administration of Quality Supervision and Inspection’s first batch of nationally famous brand products, how did they pass accreditation?

Sanlu’s products have seals like the one shown on the left.

This seal indicates that the product is exempt from quality inspection by the China General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine.

In China, whatever you eat will kill you!
There is simply no way for people to live!

Trash corporation! They already discovered the problem on August 1st, so why did they not recall until now? What were they doing before?

Sanlu, you are too hilarious! If this was done by milk farmers, there would be problems in individual batches, but not in the entire series with all the batches having problems. This is a self-contradictory statement. Looks like all of Sanlu’s milk products have problems, this time they played big.

It is not that we do not want to use domestic products…only, how can we have faith in domestic brands?

Sanlu, do not shirk responsibility. If this did not happen, how would we know what mela-whatever it is called is used for?

Melamine is not water-soluble, so how would milk farmers add it? Sanlu is slapping itself again [shooting itself in the foot?].

A Chinese baby with kidney stones caused by cheap Sanlu baby milk forumla tainted with melamine.

From NetEase:

There is no black, only blacker.

China’s government has once again hurt the people’s hearts.

It is now a criminal matter.
We need to use this incident to thoroughly investigate China’s food safety.

Every year we pay so much tax raising those pigs, how are they determining the safety of those food products? This mistake is not the manufacturer’s problem, how many bribes did those government department dogs accept?

When the Japanese got sick after eating Chinese dumplings, there was press conference after press conference. The leadership were all nervous. When Chinese children get poisoned, they act slowly, since who cares about us?

Government, look at what you have done!!!

My anger cannot be expressed with words!
My anger cannot be expressed with words!
My anger cannot be expressed with words!
My anger cannot be expressed with words!

If there are problems with Sanlu milk powder, I want to know if other brands of milk powder also have this kind of problem or also add small amounts of melamine but have not been discovered; also according to the country’s milk powder standards, is exemption given simpley because money is given to the government? The country’s general administration for quality and ministry of health should both be examined for this incident.

Strongly invite foreign milk powder monopolize China’s market, all Chinese milk powder producers go bankrupt.

What kind of world is this? My family is about to have a child, now we do not dare buy any milk powder.

Sanlu, you are a maker of infant food products. People pass their hope onto their children, but you actually doing this, where is your conscience? Does not matter if it is contamination or something else, do you guys really not inspect? If it was contaminated, how could it pass inspection? I am very suspicious, so the only thing is: either you motherfucking are taking your work seriously or I do not believe you cannot detect when there is a motherfucking contamination. Sanlu, you really are unbelievable!

Hopefully, I can immigrant while I am still alive.

I expect the government to give us a satisfactory answer.

Are you dreaming again?

With regards to this society, I no longer know what to think. If it is okay, I want to kill the corrupt officials and then kill myself.

The Chinese who use improper ways to make money from the people are like this. The poor are incredibly poor. The rich are unimaginably rich. This is what China is like.

I hear Sanlu is the nation’s brand. Quality is okay. Originally, I wanted to support domestic products and planned to buy Sanlu for my son. Fortunately, I did not buy.

Fortunately, I have never trusted domestic products, because China’s government has never taken the lives of ordinary people seriously. We can only depend on ourselves to protect ourselves. I feed my son Wyeth, it is more expensive, but I can feel at ease.

Anger, apart from anger is more anger! Simply anger to the max!!!
One one side the Olympics, dancing and singing! on the other side, infants poisoned by no-quality food products!!!
Is this the “One world, one Dream” goal?!
The victims are innocent children, who will take responsibility for their losses?! Who will make up for their future?! Who will save the integrity of food safety?!

Beloved motherland, what are you giving me to do you give for me to love you?

Chinese netizens quickly discovered that…

Someone complained to the government before, but nothing was done:

China's General Administraton of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine (AQSIQ) was informed of fake milk being sold to Sanlu as early as 2008 July 16.

[English Translation AQSIQ screen capture]

Food Production Supervision Department Message Reply

Relevant Department: [Food Production Supervision Department]
Inquiry Number: [20080707-2946-26530]
Reply Date: [2008-07-16]

Q. Qinghe in Xuzhou City, Jiangsu Province, we have a Sanlu milk collection point. Our boss is named Wei Dehua, and the milk he acquires from the milk farmers are all made at home with plant and animal fat, protein powder, maltose dextrin, and other fake ingredients. If not, it would not be enough to meet his milk target/quota. Then he adds some fake milk before sending it to Xuzhou City, Jiangsu province Sanlu for enormous profits. As a nationally famous brand, Sanlu actually sources this kind of milk without regard for consumers’ health. This year is the Olympic year, if our foreign friends drink this kind of milk and problems appear, this will cause adverse effects for our country. Hopefully, our country’s relevant departments can take care of this so it will not be like the fake milk powder incident that happened a few years ago. Sanlu is a big brand, how can it accept this kind of milk. Do not tell me there is no inspection department to inspect this?

A. With regards to your question, we have transferred this matter to the the Jiangsu Provincial Quality Supervision Bureau for investigation, handling, and will also track the results of the investigation and handling.

Chinese hackers have already hacked the Sanlu Group’s official website:

China's Sanlu Group's official website is hacked to show information about their fake milk powder controversy.

The Sanlu Group’s website currently shows details about the fake milk powder baby formula controversy and the babies who have kidney stones. Earlier, their company name was edited to say “Melamine Group” instead of “Sanlu Group.” Currently (08/09/13, 1:35am), the website cannot be reached.

Baidu may have been paid to censor bad news and information about Sanlu:

Several topics on various BBS forums also include a scanned letter suggesting that the Sanlu Group may have paid Baidu to suppress negative news or information about in their search engine.

Letter between Sanlu and Baidu detailing agreement to censor negative news about Sanlu.Letter between Sanlu and Baidu detailing agreement to censor negative news about Sanlu.

In the letter, the Teller firm makes several recommendations to the Sanlu Group to take advantage of the Olympic environment to take a pro-active approach to managing public relations and information about the company. They recommend that Sanlu use Baidu’s corporate news and information management (censorship) service, which normally costs other companies 5 million RMB. The Teller firm says they have already helped Sanlu negotiate the service for only 3 million RMB. Since the milk powder department has already paid 1.2 million, the firm recommended that the Sanlu Group add an additional 1.8 million RMB to enjoy the censorship and control of information Baidu can provide them.

Baidu has currently censored all search results about their involvement with Sanlu.

08/09/14 UPDATE: Someone commented below that Baidu is not censoring search results about this. I have checked again and I can find search results now. For example, the first result was an article with a statement from Baidu:

Baidu’s public relations manager Yang Zi expressed in an interview with this newspaper’s reporter that this matter has nothing to do with Baidu, Baidu did not cooperate with Sanlu on their problems. He expressed, this is very easy to verify and also very easy to explain. Search on Baidu, all the news is present, this is the best evidence. If a public relations firm uses Baidu as an excuse to ask for money from a client, this is also a very normal thing.

A representative from the Teller firm also claims the letter is a fake. Since they are all public relations specialists, it is hard to know what the truth is, but the internet and netizens are not always right either.

This is Part 1 of the Sanlu Milk Powder Incident, see also:


Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.