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Head of Chinese agency resigns over milk

The head of the Chinese agency that monitors food and product safety resigned Monday amid a scandal over tainted baby formula that killed four babies and sickened nearly 53,000, reported MSNBC.

Li Changjiang stepped down “with the approval of the State Council,? China’s cabinet, Xinhua said to the BBC.

The Communist Party chief of Shijiazhuang, home to the Sanlu Group that made the tainted milk powder, has also been fired, Xinhua told MSNBC.

More than 80 percent of the nearly 13,000 children hospitalized in recent weeks were 2-year-olds or younger, reported MSNBC. One hundred and four of those children are reportedly in serious condition, reported the BBC.

“The hospitalized children basically consumed Sanlu brand infant milk powder. No cases have been found from ingesting liquid milk,? said the Health Ministry in a statement, reported MSNBC.

The BBC reported that the problem was first revealed two weeks ago when milk powder from the Sanlu Group was found to contain melamine, an industrial chemical.

Melamine, which can cause kidney stones and kidney failure in babies, has since been found in infant formula and other milk products from 22 of China’s dairy companies, reported MSNBC. The BBC reported that melamine is also used in making plastics and is high in nitrogen, which makes products appear to have a higher protein count.

MSNBC reported that since then, the baby formula and other milk products have been removed from stores around China, while Chinese goods have been banned around Asia.

On Monday, the World Health Organization urged stricter monitoring of the industry, reported MSNBC.

According to MSNBC, Sanlu and several other leading companies found to have produced tainted milk had been given inspection-free status by China’s product quality watchdog, reported MSNBC.

Mr. Li, whose agency is responsible for ensuring that China’s food supply chain is safe, will be replaced by Wang Yong, a senior cabinet official, Xinhua said, reported the BBC.