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British politician Peter Mandelson ill after yoghurt in China

Rowan Callick, China correspondent | October 08, 2008

CONTROVERSIAL British politician Peter Mandelson, who was feted in China for drinking a glass of yoghurt on television in Beijing last week, has been rushed to hospital suffering from a kidney stone.

Thousands of babies across China have suffered kidney stones after drinking formula milk mixed with the industrial plastic melamine.

But there is almost certainly no connection between the two events in the case of Mr Mandelson, whose illness blighted his first day as Business Secretary in Gordon Brown's cabinet.

But the irony is not lost in China, where the consumption of milk powder contaminated by melamine has caused four babies to die and more than 50,000 to be treated in hospital, chiefly for kidney stones.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told a World Economic Forum conference in Tianjin that he was "deeply moved" to see Mr Mandelson drink the yoghurt to demonstrate his faith in Chinese dairy products, which have been banned around the world.

Products containing traces of melamine were found in several Chinese restaurants in Hungary yesterday. An official said stock would be destroyed if melamine was found in dangerous levels.

Mr Mandelson was visiting Beijing as EU trade commissioner, but has since quit in order to become Business Secretary in Britain. A Business Department spokesman said: "Over the past few days, Peter Mandelson has been experiencing some kidney pain. Hospital tests confirmed that there is a small stone. This will be dealt with by the normal procedures."

Melamine, used in plastics and fertiliser, has been used to boost the apparent protein content in milk products that have been diluted to increase revenue. The industry has been suffering from a price cap imposed at the start of the year by the Government, anxious about rising inflation.

Late on Monday, the official Xinhua news agency reported that the State Council, China's cabinet, chaired by Mr Wen, had announced new dairy industry regulations.

The State Council said the cause of the disaster was illegal production and greed: "China's dairy production and distribution order have been chaotic, and supervision has been gravely absent."

Police announced six more arrests over the melamine contamination, in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, a major milk-producing region.

The people detained are suspected of producing and selling melamine.

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