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IFJ concerned at ban on reporting food safety issue

(IFJ/IFEX) - August 19, 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned about a new ban by China's authorities on reporting about a milk powder product suspected of bringing on the development of puberty in babies.

The IFJ has learned that the order, issued by the Central Propaganda Department on August 13, required that the media stop reporting that Synutra formula was the suspected cause of infant girls appearing to experience early sexual development.

The order followed a series of media reports in early August about three baby girls in Wuhan, Hubei Province, central China, who were found to have an appearance of early sexual development after they had consumed the milk powder for a period of time.

China's Ministry of Health responded on August 12 by announcing a panel of nine experts to investigate.

Three days later, on August 15, the ministry announced the investigation had concluded that there was no evidence to prove a link between the milk powder and signs of puberty in babies. It did not advise what the cause might have been.

"Food safety is an issue of great public concern, particularly in China in recent times," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

The IFJ calls on China's authorities to lift the recent ban. Free reporting on all developments in food safety cases allows the truth to be uncovered and can also reduce public anxiety.

In 2008, several restrictive orders were issued to the media following news reporting that at least six babies had died and 300,000 children had suffered kidney problems after consuming contaminated milk powder.

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