Fonterra donates $8.4m to Chinese charity

October 10, 2008

Fonterra has donated $8.4m ($US 5m) to a Chinese charity to establish a health care programme for mothers and babies in poor rural areas.

“We want to do what we can in China to help, particularly in areas around infant health and maternal issues,” Fonterra chief executive Andrew Ferrier, told NZPA.

He today signed a memorandum of understanding in Beijing with China Soong Ching Ling Foundation secretary Li Ning to fund the programme over five years.

It will set up community centres in rural and underveloped areas, with tools and resources to support prenatal and postnatal care, and provide information to ensure healthy pregnancies and babies.

Babies in poor and rural areas were some of the first reported to be affected by melamine-contaminated infant milkpowders sold by Fonterra’s Chinese joint venture, Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group Co, in which it held a 43 percent stake.

For more than a week reports on the numbers of babies who had become ill had remained at four dead, 12,892 infants in hospital, 104 with serious illness, and close to 40,000 others affected but not needing major treatment.

But Reuters reported this week the number of affected children has risen to nearly 94,000, 46,000 of them in Hebei province, where Sanlu is based, and neighbouring Henan province.

But Mr Ferrier said the $US5m donation was a gesture which should stand on its own as a reflection of the tragedy: it was not trying to link it to the milk contamination.

“Being associated with healthy food to infants…in the environment of this huge tragedy that has happened across the country, we thought that this would be a small gesture that Fonterra could show the broader Chinese community that we really care about children and their health,” he said.

“If we can help Soong Ching Ling Foundation particularly help infant health in rural areas where there’s the most poverty, that’s a great place to be helping out.”

The foundation already has a successful project for the safety of mothers and infants.

The new programme will build maternal and infant community hubs in China’s rural and underdeveloped communities, and will include exchange and teaching programmes to help give local health workers, obstetrical and paediatric doctors, and nurses in rural areas new opportunities to learn best practices in healthcare.

Fonterra has been the biggest exporter of milkpowder to China for 20 years and Mr Ferrier said it was strongly committed: “We are part of Chinese society”.

Sanlu was one of 22 companies which had its milk poisoned by melamine and because it is seen as a Chinese problem, Fonterra’s reputation has not been affected. However, as a shareholder, I am pleased the company is making this donation to help the people and I hope that the best practices include the advice that breast milk is best for babies.


PETA boobs with breast milk campaign

September 28, 2008

PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – has written to ice cream makers Ben & Jerry’s suggesting they replace cows milk with breast milk.

While the idea is enough to provoke shudders of revulsion from your average ice cream lover, dairy farmers reacted angrily to the stunt yesterday, claiming that the group is undermining the dairy industry.

But the animal rights group Peta claims that breast milk would be “better for both consumers and cows”, pointing out the nutritional benefits of breast milk and highlighting the animal welfare concerns over dairy farming.

Bizarre as this sounds there is a precedent:

In a letter to Ben & Jerry’s co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, it cites the example of chef Hans Locher, who recently announced that he will be serving soups and sauces made from 75 per cent breast milk in his Swiss restaurant. Mr Locher posted adverts in local villages appealing for donors, offering a rate of £3 per 14 ounces (398ml) for their milk.

 Even if the women had the same checks on their health as our cows do, fresh from the breast  cuisine wouldn’t tempt me.


Wet nurses wanted in China

September 28, 2008

The Australian reports that wet nurses are cashing in  on the poisoned milk scandal in China.

MANY middle-class Chinese families already have a maid, or aiyi. Now they are rushing to hire a wet nurse, or nai ma, too, as anxiety surges about milk-powder poisoning.

Agencies throughout the country that routinely hire out domestic servants for house-cleaning, cooking and child minding, are now adding wet nurses as a new category.

In the wealthy southern city of Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong, the Daily Sunshine newspaper said that rich families seeking wet nurses were prepared to pay $3150 a month – more than three times the average income.

One domestic services agency in Shenzhen has been receiving 50 calls a day from parents wanting wet nurses.

Manager Ai Xiaoxiong said: “We only had one or two such inquiries a year in the past.”

Most Chinese parents have in recent years been feeding their babies bottled milk, promoted as more nutritious and better for the mothers’ figures. But the panic over the safety of China’s dairy products, after four babies died and 53,000 were taken to hospital as a result of consuming milk contaminated by melamine, has changed attitudes overnight.

Yanhong Wheeler, a best-selling Chinese author on raising children, under the name Xiao Wu, said: “There are more than 400 nutrients in breast milk that no milk powder can imitate. But no melamine.”

Paying a wet nurse enables well-paid mothers to continue working more easily, as well as meeting the need for reliable milk for their children.

Mr Ai said that wet nurses’ pay had more than tripled following the milk disaster.

The rewards are attracting young women to become career wet nurses. The Shenzhen Daily spoke with a woman who was a department store sales person in Sichuan province, before she quit in order to give birth last month. Now she is already planning a new job as a wet nurse: “I have plenty of breast milk. Why not? It’s a very good offer, as I only made 2000 yuan before” – about $350 per month, a typical wage. Now she can afford to buy expensive imported milk powder for her own baby.

Zhongjia Housework Agency manager Zhang Guixui said that parents were focused on the wet nurse’s health, so her agency insisted on “a strict physical check on everything from HIV to skin diseases”. She knew a case where a wet nurse was required by the parents to drink only fresh chicken soup, made from birds air-freighted from overseas.

The World Health Organisation is opposed to any advertsing of breast-milk substitutes and this is adhered to in western countries. That baby formula has been promoted in China, and no doubt other countries, as better than breast milk is another scandal.

And what does is say about the desperate circumstances of a woman that she will breast feed someone else’s child yet put her own on forumula?


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