x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Chinese dairies to compensate families

Families of Chinese children sickened by tainted milk are to receive compensation, but lawyers say the sums are too low.

Chinese food safety officers inspect Mengniu branded milk  at a supermarket in Fuyang, China.
Chinese food safety officers inspect Mengniu branded milk at a supermarket in Fuyang, China.

BEIJING // The companies whose tainted milk products made ill nearly 300,000 children and were blamed in the deaths of six are expected to pay 1.1 billion yuan (Dh590 million) in compensation to victims' families, a state-run newspaper said today. However, lawyers for the families of Chinese children sickened by tainted milk said today they are advising their clients to reject the package, saying the amount offered for families of victims is too low. Details of the compensation plan came shortly after trials began for 17 people on charges related to the production and sale of melamine, an industrial chemical added to milk to falsely boost protein readings in quality tests.

According to the China Daily, the 22 companies blamed in the scandal will make a one-time 900m yuan cash payment to victims. The remaining 200m yuan would cover bills for lingering health problems, the paper said, citing an unnamed source from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission. Details in the report roughly correspond to figures provided this month by lawyers seeking to sue the companies involved, who said that most children who suffered kidney stones would get 2,000 yuan, while sicker children would be paid 30,000 yuan. Families of children who died will each get 200,000 yuan, the China Daily said. Beijing attorney Xu Zhiyong, part of a legal team representing 63 families, said parents who had received copies of the compensation agreement considered the offer of 2,000 yuan to be woefully inadequate. "I advised them not to sign it for the time being, as we would demand trials of those 22 dairy companies," Mr Xu said. Mr Xu called the government offer a "step in the right direction", but said parents felt their concerns had been ignored. "The compensation is too low and no victims were involved in the decision making process, which are the main reasons for their anger," said Xu, whose attempts to sue the companies involved have so far been rejected by the courts.

At least six babies died and 294,000 other children suffered kidney and urinary problems from drinking the baby formula made from the contaminated milk. The compensation plan - which was originally announced Saturday - and the trials of those blamed for the contamination appear to signal that authorities hope to end what was widely seen as a national disgrace, highlighting widespread problems with food safety and corporate and governmental malfeasance. At least four of the suspects on trial could be given the death penalty, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The four - who went on trial yesterday - face charges of endangering public safety by allegedly producing 200 tonnes of a mixture of melamine and malt dextrin, a food additive made from starch, that they marketed to milk producers, according to state media reports. Between November 2007 and August 2008, they sold 110 tonnes to milk producers - including Sanlu Group Co., the dairy at the heart of the scandal - for a total of 1.23m yuan, the reports said.

* AP