Nearly 53,000 children in China have been sickened by milk powder contaminated by an industrial chemical, the government said Monday, dramatically ramping up its previous figures. Earlier the health ministry said 12,892 infants were in hospital with 104 babies in serious condition, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
As the World Health Organization questioned Beijing's handling of the crisis, premier Wen Jiabao appeared on state television promising to head off further incidents.
But a Hong Kong toddler also became the first child affected outside the mainland and more countries moved to bar Chinese milk products.
The scandal stems from the practice of adding industrial chemical melamine, normally used to make plastics, to watered-down milk to boost apparent protein levels.
Melamine, which causes urinary problems including kidney stones, was first discovered in baby formula and then in liquid milk, yoghurt and ice-cream, leading to mass recalls.
The problem first came to light last week in state-controlled media but New Zealand dairy Fonterra, which has a joint venture with China's Sanlu, has said it knew for weeks and had been pushing for a recall.