Skip to main content

China milk exec faults lack of rules, awaits verdict

  • Story Highlights
  • Ex-Sanlu chairwoman says other firms should shoulder some responsibility
  • Tian Wenhua has pleaded guilty to producing and selling substandard products
  • Scandal revealed after babies fed milk powder developed kidney stones
  • Some Chinese dairy plants added melamine to milk products to boost protein levels
  • Next Article in World »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- The head of major Chinese dairy firm Sanlu Group has argued that the country's lack of regulations regarding a toxic chemical contributed to a tainted milk scandal that sickened nearly 300,000 infants, state-run media reported.

Victims' relatives outside a court hold banners that read "cannot deprive the victims' rights."

Victims' relatives outside a court hold banners that read "cannot deprive the victims' rights."

Tian Wenhua, former board chairwoman and general manager of Sanlu, pleaded guilty Wednesday to her role in the scandal. She and three other executives are on trial for producing and selling fake or substandard products, according to Xinhua news agency.

In a statement distributed by her attorney on Thursday, Tian said China should consider the standards of the European Union regarding the chemical melamine. She also said other independent companies under the Sanlu umbrella produced some of the "tainted milk powder" and their leaders should also shoulder some responsibility.

Tian said she did not intentionally sell tainted product and had taken several steps aimed at making up for the harm caused, Xinhua reported.

In her closing statement, Tian tearfully apologized.

"If it meant that I could get back the health of all the sick children, I would be willing to accept any legal punishment," she said.

The three other executives on trial are former deputy general managers Wang Yuliang and Hang Zhiqi, and Wu Jusheng, a former executive heading Sanlu's milk division.

Wang has appeared in court in a wheelchair after he broke his leg in a suicide attempt leaping from a building. A defense attorney asked him about the attempt, and Wang broke down into tears, according to Xinhua.

"I apologize to Sanlu's faithful consumers," he said. "When I think of the children who were harmed ... I feel extreme inadequacy towards these sick children and their parents."

The trial ended after a 14-hour session. It was not clear when a verdict was expected.

Chinese investigators found melamine in nearly 70 milk products from more than 20 companies, according to quality control official Li Changjiang, who was eventually forced to resign.

The Ministry of Health has said the contamination likely caused the deaths of at least six babies. Another 294,000 infants suffered from urinary problems, such as kidney stones.

The tainted formula came to light in September after babies who were fed milk powder produced by Sanlu Group, which recently filed for bankruptcy, had developed kidney stones.

Melamine is commonly used in coatings and laminates, wood adhesives, fabric coatings, ceiling tiles and flame retardants. Some Chinese dairy plants added the chemical to milk products so they would appear to have a higher protein level.

Prior to the four Sanlu executives, at least eight people stood trial over charges of adding melamine-laced "protein powder" to milk or selling the tainted milk to Sanlu or other dairies.


Victims of tainted baby formula were expected to be compensated by the 22 Chinese dairy producers that made the milk.

No date for the payments was given. The dairies also raised money to cover medical bills for any after-effects suffered as a result of the poisoning, the association said.

All About Sanlu Group Co.ChinaFood Safety

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print