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China: 53 punished over melamine-tainted milk (VIDEO)

A total of 53 officials involved in the sale of melamine-tainted milk have been punished days after 14 people were convicted of selling tainted milk powder and two of them sent to prison.

China tainted milk 2011 5 3Enlarge
A woman pushes a pram carrying a carton of Japanese milk powder outside a store in the Kowloon district of Hong Kong on March 16, 2011. Hong Kong residents have been bulk buying the preferred Japanese milk powder amid concerns that dangerous radiation seeping from stricken Japanese nuclear power plants could affect or contaminate further imports. Meanwhile Hong Kong has widened its top-level black travel alert to three more Japanese prefectures after explosions at a nuclear plant. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

A total of 53 officials involved in the sale of melamine-tainted milk have been punished with dismissal, demotions and warnings, with China saying it is stepping up efforts to ensure food safety.

The move comes after the sentencing last Friday of 14 people other convicted of producing or selling tainted milk powder in Shanxi and Hebei provinces. Among the 14, two were sent to prison for life, four received sentences of 10 to 15 years and the rest received lighter sentences, Reuters reported.

Three years after the use of melamine in infant formula killed at least six babies and sickened 300,000, the authorities are still seizing tons of tainted milk each year, according to the China Daily.

A dairy farmer and a milk salesman were executed over the 2008 poisonings, and China's dairy industry underwent a shake-up. China said in March that at least 20 percent of domestic dairy companies would lose their operating licenses following inspections of fresh milk and infant formula producers.

Farmers or processors add melamine to watered-down milk to ensure it appears to have high levels of protein. Melamine can cause kidney damage.

About 26 tons of melamine-tainted milk powder was recently seized from an ice-cream maker in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing, local police said.

And three children died this month after drinking nitrate-laden milk in what police judged an intentional poisoning.

The State Council, or China's Cabinet, has ordered a renewed crackdown against illegal food additives, warning of severe penalties. However, new cases of tainted food or medicine are reported regularly.

The Chinese authorities have this year uncovered the sale of drug-tainted pork, bean sprouts treated with a carcinogenic chemicals and stale bread treated with dye to make it seem fresh.

President Hu Jintao has said during a visit to Tianjin Product Quality Inspection Technology Research Institute over the weekend that inspection efforts need to be improved.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/china/110503/china-tainted-milk-infant-formula