Fonterra must apply NZ stds in China

April 20, 2009

Prime Minister John Key sees opportunities for New Zealand to help China with its food safety standards.

He’s right but with the opportunities come risks, one of which is an association with New Zealand or New Zealand companies and their products if standards aren’t up to scratch.

Another is the difficulty of  transferring our standards to a country with a very differenct culture, customs and ethics.

The significance of Fonterra chairman Henry Van der Heyden accompanying Key hasn’t been missed. The company was badly bitten by its involvement with Sanlu but is looking for fresh opportunities in China.

They will have learnt from the Sanlu disaster, but I’m not yet convinced they have learnt all the lessons and realise all the risks.

One of these is the danger of selling infant milk powder in a country where companies don’t abide by the International Code of Marketing Breast Milk Substitutes.

The code was developed by the World Health Organisation in 1981 and prohibits almost all advertising of breast milk substitutes to the public.

If Fonterra is associated in any way with companies which disregard the code it risks an international backlash.

Baby Milk Action is an organisation  which monitors the baby food industry. Its website shows Sanlu advertisements which contravene the international code and it has a campaign to boycott Nestle because it breaches the code.

 If Fonterra wants to invest and operate in China it must not only ensure that the animal welfare and food health and safety standards which it requires in New Zealand are adhered to there, it must also ensure none of its produce is advertised in breach of the ICMBMS.


Chinese govt accepts partial responsibility for melamine poisoning

October 19, 2008

Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, has taken the rare step of saying the government has some responsibility for the poisoned milk scandal.

The government feels “great sorrow” over the crisis which has sickened more than 50,000 children, Wen said in an interview published in this week’s Science Magazine.

“We feel that although problems occurred at the company, the government also has a responsibility,” Wen said in the Sept. 20 interview posted on the website of the magazine, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

A Chinese version of the interview in the Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper quoted Wen as saying the government had been especially lax in “supervision and management.”

“We will handle the incident sincerely and seriously, and draw deep lessons from it,” said Wen, who has won the admiration of ordinary Chinese citizens for his visits to the country’s poor rural areas and for rallying victims of the devastating May 12 earthquake in Sichuan province.

This is a big admission from the leader of a country which rarely admits the government makes mistakes.

But I don’t expect his contrition to extend to an acknowledgement that a lack of media freedom exacerbated the problems because the scandal was not widely publicised until long after the link between infant formula and babies becomeing ill was known.


Chinese dairy companies apologise

October 13, 2008

Three Chinese dairy companies have apologised for their part in the melamine poisoning of milk used for infant formula.

Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group, Mengniu Dairy and Bright Dairy Group were earlier found to have produced milk contaminated with melamine.

The scandal has savaged the companies’ share prices and prompted Seattle-based coffee chain Starbucks to pull Mengniu milk from its 300-plus stores last month.
  
Chinese health officials say nearly 10,700 infants and children are still in hospital after drinking milk and formula contaminated with melamine.

Still no more than four dead – I hope that is the true number and not a result of censorship.


More questions for Fonterra

October 5, 2008

Inquiring Mind asks several questions of Fonterra. in the wake of the melamine milk poisoning in China.

I have some more:

                    What is Fonterra’s policy on advertising infant milk formula?

                     Does it have different policies in different countries?

                    Does it know if San Lu, in which it has a 43% stake, was one of the Chinese companies which contributed to the $765 million spent on advertising baby milk formula in China last year?


Parents sue Sanlu

October 2, 2008

The parents of a one year old baby have sued Sanlu  because he developed kidney stones after drinking infant formula contaminated by melamine.

The case is being represented by Ji Cheng . . . [who] said his clients sought legal help because they could no longer afford medical treatment for their child, the report said.

Even though China’s State Council, the Cabinet, has ordered hospitals to provide free health care for sick children, the facility where this child was being treated, Beijing Children’s Hospital, only offers free treatment to children diagnosed after September 12, when the scandal broke, the magazine said.

It said Ji’s clients have had to foot all medical expenses incurred since June, when the baby started showing symptoms.

Fonterra has a 43% stake in Sanlu which is one of 22 companies in China which used milk poisoned by melamine to produce baby formula.

Update: Macdoctor has more on this here.


Scandal behind milk scandal

October 1, 2008

Behind the melamine poisoned milk scandal in China is another one – the economic and commercial pressure on women to use infant formula rather than breast feeding their babies themselves.

Country women go to cities for work, leaving their babies back home with their families, and advertising persuades mothers that baby formula is better than breast milk.

You can read the sorry saga here.

No companies advertise infant forumla in New Zealand. No New Zealand company should be involved in a company which advertises it elsewhere.


How many babies have died?

September 30, 2008

Have you noticed anything more on the number of babies in China who’ve died or become ill after being fed baby formula made from milk poisoned by melamine?

I’ve been checking the web for stories and haven’t found any updates since last week’s report of four dead babies and many thousand others who are ill.

Does the absence of news mean there have been no more deaths, or that more babies have died but authorities have clamped down on the media so it’s not being reported?

Update: The Guardian  reports:

The government is now playing down the scandal and Chinese lawyers and advocates who have promised to help the families of sick children seek redress say they are facing pressure to abandon the efforts from officials in some provinces.

“About two dozen of the lawyers have called these past days to say they want to quit the volunteer advice group,” Li Fangping, a Beijing lawyer who helped organise the group, told Reuters.

“Some of them said that they or their offices were told they’d face serious repercussions if they stayed involved.”

Even if the media did report numbers, could we believe them?


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