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Dairy firms text public, say sorry

By : China Daily|Updated: 2009-01-04

Troubled dairy producer Sanlu Group and 21 other dairy firms implicated in the tainted milk scandal, which sickened nearly 300,000 children in the country, apologized to the public via text messages on the first day of 2009.

"We are deeply sorry for the harm we have brought to children and to society," the message read. "We offer our sincere apology and plead for forgiveness."

The firms promised to compensate the victims and cover all expenses for their medical treatment, the message said. The 22 companies have established a compensation fund for the victims of the melamine-contaminated milk.

The apologetic SMS came as a surprise to those who received it as it is "quite unusual" for private firms to send group messages to millions of mobile phone users in the country.

Previously, only government agencies have used the technology to issue warnings, such as traffic conditions, or to express their gratitude to the people for their contribution to the Beijing Olympic Games.

However, several families of the victims said they had not received the text message from the dairy firms.

Many of them did not think much of the apology, saying a number of local hospitals were continuing to refuse free treatment to their children.

"Just by pleading guilty and apologizing does not ease the pain of my child. All I want is for someone to cure my boy. Either provide him with the medical treatment required or give me the money so I can pay for his treatment," said Yang Yanli, the mother of a 3-year-old boy from Jilin province.

Yang's son is suffering from high fever, a side-effect of the urinary illness.

"Even if I won't get any more compensation, I still need my kid to be safe," Lu Xiaoning, father of a 13-month-old from Hebei province. Lu's child has a large kidney stone, but a local hospital has repeatedly rejected free treatment.

Sanlu Group's former board chairperson and general manager Tian Wenhua, along with three other executives, stood trial in Hebei province on Wednesday and pleaded guilty to producing and selling fake or sub-standard products.

Six babies died and more than 290,000 infants suffered from urinary ailments after consuming the tainted milk.

Ministry of Health spokesman Mao Qun'an promised on Thursday that the country will continue to provide free treatment to sickened babies in the tainted milk powder scandal.

"Children below three years of age, who had consumed the tainted milk and had symptoms for ailments could still come to local hospitals for check-ups. They will receive free treatment if diagnosed with stones in the urinary system," the spokesman said.