According to a news source, a Chinese court began hearing claims on November 27, 2009, in a civil suit brought against a dairy company and supermarket by the parents of a child allegedly sickened by melamine-contaminated milk. The parents are reportedly seeking US$8,080, claiming that the milk caused their 20-month-old son’s kidney stone.

The companies have apparently argued in their defense that the injury should be covered under a government compensation program and that no medical records link the child’s kidney problems to drinking tainted milk. The judge has scheduled another hearing for December 9 and requested that the parties produce additional evidence.

The case is the first to be heard in the tainted milk scandal, which purportedly resulted in the deaths of six infants, injury to 300,000 children and a worldwide recall of products containing contaminated milk powder. The largest company implicated, the Sanlu Group, paid US$132 million into a US$161 million fund and declared bankruptcy. Government officials have reportedly been harassing parents seeking redress beyond the compensation fund or waging a public campaign to hold more officials accountable.

In the meantime, two milk producers were apparently executed on November 25 for their role in the scandal. They allegedly sold more than 3 million pounds of milk powder laced with melamine to create the illusion of a higher protein content. Nineteen other people involved in the scandal were tried and sentenced in January; 15 were imprisoned for two to 15 years, one received a suspended sentence of death, and three were sentenced to life in prison. See The New York Times, November 25 and 29, 2009.

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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.