Con­sumers los­ing con­fi­dence in Fon­terra dairy prod­ucts

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION / DIGEST - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai zhouwent­ing@ chi­

De­spite claims by Fon­terra that none of its milk pow­der found in Sri Lanka with traces of the toxic chem­i­cal di­cyan­di­amide made it into the Chi­nese mar­ket, Chi­nese con­sumers and ex­perts are in up­roar over the com­pany’s han­dling of its food safety prob­lems.

On Sun­day, the world’s largest dairy ex­porter re­called its milk pow­der un­der the brand name An­chor on or­ders from the Sri Lankan govern­ment for con­tain­ing small amounts of DCD. The com­pany has chal­lenged the govern­ment’s test re­sults of the batches, which en­tered the Sri Lankan mar­ket in March.

But con­cern quickly spread in China de­spite as­sur­ances by Fon­terra. “The milk pow­der re­called in Sri Lanka never en­tered the Chi­nese main­land and all of (Fon­terra’s) prod­ucts in the Chi­nese mar­ket are safe,” said Zhang Yan­shi, as­so­ciate ac­count di­rec­tor at HighTeam Mar­ket­ing Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, the pub­lic re­la­tions firm for Fon­terra in China.

But Wang Ding­mian, for­mer di­rec­tor of the Dairy As­so­ci­a­tion of China, has his doubts.

“The rea­son why the re­called prod­ucts were tested for di­cyan­di­amide is be­cause of pol­luted pas­tures. How can the com­pany guar­an­tee that prod­ucts from the same ori­gin have not been tainted?” he asked.

Chen Zhongqi, a mother of a 5-month-old boy in Suzhou, Jiangsu prov­ince, said the com­pany ig­nored its other food scare ear­lier this month in which tests of baby for­mula and sports drinks con­tained Fon­terra-pro­duced whey pow­der with traces of the bac­te­ria, Clostrid­ium bo­tulinum. The bac­te­ria can cause bot­u­lism, a rare but some­times fa­tal par­a­lytic ill­ness.

“The com­pany should have learned a les­son about main­tain­ing strict food safety stan­dards af­ter disas­ter broke (ear­lier),” Chen said.

Wang Ying, mother of a 15-month-old boy in Shang­hai, also said she no longer buys Fon­terra’s prod­ucts.

Dairy ex­perts in China said DCD is sim­i­lar in com­po­si­tion to melamine, the chem­i­cal at the heart of the 2008 Sanlu milk cri­sis. While it is not toxic, DCD will dam­age the kid­neys if it ac­cu­mu­lates in the body.

“The chem­i­cal is dif­fi­cult to me­tab­o­lize if in­gested and will form stones. It’s par­tic­u­larly harm­ful to kids, whose kid­neys are not fully de­vel­oped. Their uri­nary sys­tems will be im­paired,” said Cao Mingshi, deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Shang­hai Dairy As­so­ci­a­tion.

In Jan­uary, New Zealand’s Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries found DCD in some of Fon­terra’s milk pow­der prod­ucts and later dis­cov­ered it came from fer­til­iz­ers used in pas­tures, al­though the source of the con­tam­i­na­tion is still to be re­vealed.

China has halted im­ports of whey pro­tein pow­der and whey pro­tein con­cen­trate pro­duced by Fon­terra in New Zealand since Aug 6 .

Ex­perts are wor­ried the ban will cre­ate a tem­po­rary short­age of raw in­gre­di­ents for do­mes­tic dairy busi­nesses that rely on Fon­terra.

“It’s not easy for busi­nesses to find re­place­ment sup­pli­ers within a short time. They need to con­sider costs, qual­ity of the in­gre­di­ents and for­eign ex­change rates. Dairy prod­ucts from the Euro­pean Union take at least three months to en­ter China,” said Wang Ding­mian.

China im­ported 371,000 met­ric tons of raw milk pow­der from New Zealand in the first half of this year, ac­count­ing for ap­prox­i­mately 83 per­cent of the coun­try’s to­tal milk pow­der im­ports, ac­cord­ing to the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cus­toms.

Meng­niu Dairy Group, the coun­try’s dairy gi­ant, as well as Chen­guan Dairy In­dus­try Co and Shang­hai How­ell Nu­tri­tional Dairy —two busi­nesses spe­cial­iz­ing in baby for­mula pro­duc­tion—said on Mon­day none of the pro­hib­ited in­gre­di­ents made it into their prod­ucts.

But Ye Xin­ping, deputy gen­eral man­ager of Shang­hai How­ell Nu­tri­tional Dairy, said, “The ban will cer­tainly af­fect those who re­ceive Fon­terra’s raw ma­te­ri­als.”

As a re­sult of the Fon­terra scares, sales in China of in­fant for­mula pro­duced in Europe have grown re­cently. Statis­tics from Taobao, China’s lead­ing on­line shop­ping site, showed a 220 per­cent rise in trans­ac­tion records for baby for­mula from the Nether­lands and Ger­many over the past seven days.


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