Two more suspects in China's tainted milk scandal went on trial yesterday, bringing to 17 the number who have faced court in high-profile proceedings over the nation's worst food safety case in years.
Brothers Geng Jinping and Geng Jinzhu are accused of making and selling milk tainted with melamine, state-run television CCTV said, broadcasting images of the two standing in court with their heads bowed in front of the judges.
At least six babies in China died this year and 294,000 fell ill after drinking milk laced with melamine, which is normally used to make plastic.
The chemical was mixed into watered-down milk to make it appear richer in protein but it caused severe kidney and urinary tract problems in babies who drank contaminated milk powder.
The Gengs are accused of being "middlemen" who added melamine to milk, which was then sold to Sanlu, the largest Chinese dairy producer to have become embroiled in the scandal, and other dairy firms, CCTV said.
Geng Jinping, the former boss of a milk station, and Geng Jinzhu, a driver, had allegedly mixed 434kg of melamine-laced 'protein powder' with over 900,000 kilos of milk, CCTV said.
They sold product worth more than 2.8 million yuan (US$405,000) before being caught in September, according to the report.
The pair, who had bought the powder from two other suspects appeared at a court in Shijiazhuang city, Hebei province.
On Monday, nine other people suspected of trading or producing the tainted additives went on trial in Shijiazhuang and surrounding districts, while six others were tried on Friday last week.
The trials have been very high-profile in China, broadcast in daily televised news bulletins - a rare occurrence in a country where court cases are usually conducted behind closed doors.
The publicity appeared to be part of an effort by China's communist authorities to show they had taken tough action to end an enormous public relations nightmare.