China Milk Taint Scandal. Foul Play?
Posted by Foodie on September 22, 2008
Now why would someone add melamine to milk. Apparently , the unscrupulous suppliers who sold the raw milk had added the chemical melamine, normally used in plastics, to make the milk seem higher in protein. When I read this at first, it made my blood boil needless to say. And then I paused to think, is it that straight forward? Surely the people would fathom the consequences of adding chemicals to milk? Are they so short sighted to think they can actually pull this off and get away with it? This is food I’m talking about. Not just any food, mind you, a main staple for infants. Could there be foul play? Another attempt to hurt China’s manufacturing reputation? I don’t know and can’t say for sure, but at the back of my mind, I can’t help but suspect someone out there is trying to tarnish the image of China, yet again.
When I say yet again, I’m not just being biased as I too agree that there are certain unscrupulous and opportunistic small time cottage industries in China (and elsewhere in the world) who only care about profit. However in this case, we are talking about Sanlu Group Company which is 43% owned by New Zealand’s dairy farmers’ cooperative, Fonterra. Sanlu Group Co. is also China’s biggest producer of powdered milk. Surely for them, safety, quality and reputation is on their top priority as they have much to lose. They are in this for the long haul and brand image is everything to them.
However having said that, the biggest mistake China made was their delayed reaction in recalling their products fast enough even after New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark had learned of this problem on September 5 and had ordered officials to inform the senior authorities in Beijing. If this was an issue of saving face, then this time it really cost them.
This incident is an immense national shame and embarrassment to China and its product safety system. Previously, several overhauls have been introduced in an attempt to restore consumer confidence and preserve its export markets after a string of recalls and warnings abroad over tainted goods. It is also true I believe, when China claims it has been trying very hard to comply with the rules as a good standing market player. Most people would agree when I say that the Chinese culture is very much about saving face, and a good reputation comes with the ‘face’ that needs to be saved. So what I’m trying to say is how can anyone dispute the fact that China isn’t trying hard enough when a ‘good face’ means that much to them?
I’m sure many of you remember the incident last year when Mattel accused China of weak safety standards and recalled all of Chinese made products only to realize it was a “design flaw” in its manufacturing process. The fallout from Mattel’s recall took a bizarre turn as the toy company apologized to Beijing and took the blame for the flaws in the design regarding lead-tainted toys. The VP of Mattel himself admitted that the recalls were overly inclusive and apologized for hurting the reputation of Chinese manufacturers. However the damage was already done. Yet again.