September 25 & September 27/London, Washington, Beijing/Indo-Asian News Service,Chicago Tribuneand The International Herald Tribune --

The World Health Organisation (WHO) accused China of covering up the milk scandal that claimed lives of four children and made over 53,000 babies nationwide ill, the Daily Telegraph reported.

"This incident was aggravated by delays in reporting at a number of sources," said a spokesman for the WHO in Beijing. "These delays were probably a combination of ignorance and deliberate failure to report."

According to state media reports, Chinese dairy firm Sanlu, the company at the heart of the crisis, knew about the contamination in June. However, it did not notify the regional government in Shijiazhuang, its home town, until August 2.

The Chinese government also delayed in making the issue public until the second week of this month, which prompted the WHO to criticize the country.

Jorgen Schlundt, the head of the WHO's department of food safety, said Sanlu had sold "milk powder with more than 100 times the concentration of melamine that an 11-pound baby can tolerate".

The WHO rebuke comes as new figures emerged from Shanghai that said 5% of babies in the province have been taken ill in the tainted milk scandal. As many as 10,000 children aged under three have developed kidney stones after consuming the milk laced with melamine, an industrial chemical more commonly found in plastic, the newspaper said.

Dairy products, chocolates, sweets and biscuits have all been found to contain traces of melamine, which is generally used with watered-down milk to "bulk" it up and make it appear richer in protein. However, it triggers the formation of kidney stones when consumed.

Sanlu, which is 43% owned by New Zealand's Fonterra Group, has recalled more than 10,000 tons of contaminated baby milk from market.

The company is reportedly an official sponsor of China's first spacewalk mission.

However, the taikonauts, who are preparing to carry out the space walk, have reportedly not been fed melamine-tainted products, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) has decreed that all Chinese dairy products and sweets must be tested. China's most popular sweet, White Rabbit, has been withdrawn from stores. In Britain, supermarket chain Tesco has cleared its shelves of White Rabbit following the scandal.

The powdered milk contamination scare reached American shores when the FDA recommended that consumers avoid a line of coffees and a candy made in China.

The instant coffees involved -- Mr. Brown's brand -- are exported to the U.S. by King Car Food Industrial Co. Ltd. and are manufactured in China by Shandong Duqing Inc. King Car is recalling the products, along with a milk tea it produces, the FDA said.

The FDA also warned consumers not to eat White Rabbit candy from China, citing in part government testing in New Zealand that found "high levels" of the industrial compound melamine.

"In light of the widespread contamination of milk and milk-based products in China and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority's finding, the FDA recommends that consumers not eat White Rabbit Creamy Candy," the agency said.

The FDA said it is not aware of any illnesses in the U.S. linked to the candy or Mr. Brown's products. However, the FDA's action on the coffee came four days after Canada took the same action in response to possible melamine contamination.

In response to written questions, FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Kwisnek said, "The FDA is still in the process of determining how wide-spread the distribution is of Mr. Brown products in the United States. ...The FDA is stopping every shipment of White Rabbit Candies and Mr. Brown coffee products at the ports and testing them."

Chinese authorities have said that products from as many as 23 Chinese companies could be involved.

Melamine contains nitrogen and can artificially boost protein level readings of such items as powdered foods, allowing exporters to charge more for what appear to be high-protein foods.

The Chinese powdered milk scare already has expanded throughout Asia, parts of Europe and Canada.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) put the blame for the latest melamine problem on China's food safety system, which she said is deeply flawed, and filed legislation that calls for a separate U.S. food safety agency.

"I think we have to be so concerned and so skeptical of China's food safety regulatory system," DeLauro said. "It's a fact that whatever exists is so weak that it cannot prevent a product from either being deliberately contaminated or inadvertently contaminated and then being shipped overseas."

The FDA said it has searched for suspect formula in the United States.

In China, meanwhile, a senior official says the country has brought the scandal "under control." In the process, prime minister Wen Jiabao vowed tougher monitoring.

Beijing is battling public alarm and international dismay after the scandal's revelation.

However, Xiang Yuzhang, the national quality monitor's chief inspection official, said that consumers could now rest easy after a widespread recall of tainted products and increased testing of dairy goods. "The Chinese government has taken a series of very strong measures to get to the bottom of this matter," Xiang said on the sidelines of a food safety conference in Beijing.

"I have just returned from an inspection trip to the regions. At present, there is basically no melamine problem anymore in the Chinese market, including for producers.

"There is no problem. It has been brought under control, more or less. There are no more problems in the market," he added. "As far as I know, there will be no more bad news."

Last year, China initiated a quality drive after a surge of scares over toys, toothpaste, pharmaceutical ingredients and pet food ingredients -- which were also laced with melamine.

At that time, Chinese officials often said foreign media and critics had exaggerated the country's problems.

However, now they are focused on quelling domestic alarm and anger, with 54,000 Chinese children affected and more than 100 in a serious condition, revelations of a government-blessed cover-up, and consumers wondering what milk products might be safe. China has said it found melamine in nearly 10% of milk and drinking yogurt samples from three major dairy companies.

Robert Madelin, the European Commission's director general for health and consumer protection, said at the same conference Xiang attended that the scandal had implications beyond China.

"In an area such as melamine, what we can say is that all big players are in a world market. So what happens in China is affecting also foreign investors in China, with European capital or American capital. It is affecting traders in Europe with interests in China, with friends in China, with sources in China," he said.

The New Zealand dairy export giant, Fonterra Co-operative Group, slashed the value of its big investment in China's Sanlu Group by nearly 70%.

Sanlu has been at the center of the scandal, with many of the infant poisonings linked to its popular milk powder. Xinhua reported that Sanlu knew for many months that its infant milk powder was tainted.

Fonterra repeated that it first knew of the contamination in early August, and took what it regarded as the best action by working with the local Chinese authorities on a product recall.  

From the September 29, 2008, Prepared Foods e-Flash