Multiple toddlers in China have developed deformed heads after being raised on a protein drink sold to their parents as baby formula, a report has claimed.
Pictures provided by devastated parents show their children’s foreheads having unusual swellings after they had allegedly fed on the product for months.
The shocking revelation comes more than 10 years after toxic, chemical-laden milk powder produced by the country’s largest dairy firms killed six infants and sickened nearly 300,000 babies.
One mother, Ms Chen, said that her daughter’s forehead ‘is protruding’. The parent from the county of Yongxing, Hunan province, showed a picture of her child to the Hunan Economy TV
One father, Mr Hu, said his three-year-old child’s skull ‘juts out obviously’ as a result. He said the child had been growing slowly and only displayed the physical traits of a two-year-old
The latest health scandal took place in the city of Chenzhou in southern China’s Hunan province, according to Hunan Economy TV, which carried out the investigation.
It is understood that these children are allergic to milk, and their parents had been recommended by shop assistants to use the product in question to replace regular formula.
The sick toddlers, all from the county of Yongxing, were diagnosed with rickets, the report claimed.
The condition affects bone development in children, causing pain, poor growth and soft, weak bones that can lead to deformities.
It can be caused by a lack of vitamin D, sources of which include sunlight and food such as oily fish and egg yolks.
Other boys and girls are said to have displayed symptoms such as rash and intellectual disability after being left severely malnourished by the drink.
The drink is called Bei An Min, according to local officials who were investigating the matter
One father, known by his surname Hu, said his three-year-old child’s skull ‘juts out obviously’ after he started to drink the product. He said the child had been growing slowly and only displayed the physical traits of a two-year-old.
Another mother, known by her surname Chen, told the reporter that her daughter’s forehead ‘is protruding’.
‘Others all say that your child looks like a “big-headed baby” and ask if she is deformed,’ she said while showing a picture of the girl on her phone.
Ms Chen said her monthly salary was around 2,000 yuan (£230), but she had to spend 3,000 yuan (£344) on the product every month for her daughter.
A third parent said his daughter had been slapping herself on the head repeatedly several times a day after being left with intellectual disability due to the regular consumption of the ‘formula’.
One mother, Ms Zhu, told the reporter she was devastated after discovering her daughter had been raised on a drink, not formula. She said he child had drank the product for over two years
The dodgy drink is called Bei An Min and produced by a local company in Hunan, according to local officials who were investigating the matter.
Although the manufacturer labels it as a ‘solid drink of protein’ on the tins, the product has been sold at the baby formula section of a popular maternity store.
‘When I heard the news [that it was just a drink], I was devastated. We had always believed that it was formula. The sales assistants had been telling us that it was formula too,’ cried a mother, known by her surname Zhu.
‘It wasn’t until later that we found out it was a type of drink. It means my daughter had fed on a drink for more than two years.’
Chinese parents have been scared by a number of milk scandals in the past. In the most infamous case, a chemical compound called melamine was added into baby formula
When reporters visited the store that sold the product, a manager insisted that Bei An Min was a kind of ‘special formula’.
However, after the reporter told the manager about the situation of her customers’ children, the woman, who had sold the product for two years, quickly changed her tone. She said the product ‘can’t be drunk long-term because it does not have nutrients’.
China has a national food safety standard, which lists the requirements of ingredients and nutritional values of baby formula.
However, it does not have regulations on normal drinks sold to babies and young children.
Officials said 20 per cent of Chinese dairy firms, including then milk powder giant Sanlu, were involved in the tainted-milk scandal that killed six children and sickened 300,000 in 2008
A customer service representative from Bei An Min told Beijing News that their product was a regular drink for ‘ordinary customers’ and produced in line with government regulations
The representative claimed that the company was not aware that the drink had been sold to babies allergic to milk.
The representative added that the production of Bei An Min was suspended mid-2019 and the company was probing the parents’ claims.
The Chinese market watchdog has been alerted of the report.
The State Administration of Market Regulation said in a statement today that it was ‘paying close attention’ to the matter and ordered its provincial branch in Hunan to ‘thoroughly inspect’ the relevant businesses.
The authority vowed heavy punishment and promised to release the results of the investigation ‘timely’.
Chinese customers have been scared by a number of milk scandals in the past.
The most infamous case occurred in 2008 and involved 20 per cent of Chinese dairy firms, including then milk powder giant Sanlu.
The incident saw firms adding a chemical compound called melamine, used in plastic and fertiliser production, into baby formula.
Two men were sentenced to death for their role in the tainted milk scandal, which killed six children and sickened 294,000.
Tian Wenhua, 66, the boss of Sanlu, was spared the death penalty but jailed for life and fined more than £2million.
In 2003, more than 100 babies in eastern China’s Anhui Province developed the so-called ‘big-headed disease’, which saw them having enormous heads, after drinking milk made of starch and cane sugar by dishonest companies. Twelve babies died of severe malnutrition as a result, according to reports at the time.