Chinese baby formula scandal

by revere, cross-posted at Effect Measure

Two of my grandsons were here today. They are just babies (16 months and month and half) but one of them is a little colicky. He looks like he is having cramps after downing his formula. But compared to some babies in China, it’s nothing. The formula they’ve been drinking was adulterated with melamine, the same adulterant responsible for pet deaths from tainted dog food not long ago (see here, here, here). Dozens of poor babies have kidney stones. One has died. If you’ve never had kidney stones, this might not mean that much. But I’ve had them. Twice. The pain is excruciating. It’s been likened to obstetrical labor. I was able to get to an emergency room fairly quickly because I knew what was happening. There I got morphine and when that wasn’t enough, Dilaudid. These babies couldn’t tell anyone what they were experiencing. They could just scream in agony. So what’s the story?

Investigations showed that most of the babies had drunk formula produced by Sanlu Group, a Hebei province-based dairy producer partly owned by New Zealand dairy export giant Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd.An official in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei and Sanlu Group’s headquarters, said police had questioned 78 people in the case and laid the blame on unscrupulous suppliers.

“The suspects added water to the milk they sold to Sanlu to make more money. They also added melamine so that the diluted milk could still meet standards,” Xinhua quoted Shijiazhuang Vice Mayor Zhao Xinchao as saying. (Reuters via Flex News Food)

 

It’s not known if any of the tainted formula was exported. There is a ban on Chinese baby formula in the US but that doesn’t mean it isn’t here:

“We’re concerned that there may be some infant formula that may have gotten into the United States illegally and may be on the ethnic market,” said Janice Oliver, deputy director of the FDA’s food safety program. “No infant formula from China should be entering the United States, but in the past we have found it on at least one occasion.”(Fox News)

The New Zealand partners of Sanlu say they learned of the problem in early August and asked their Chinese counterparts to do a public recall. They didn’t. The Chinese inspectorate also says they weren’t notified in a timely manner. This sounds like a huge scandal and everyone is frantically trying to blame someone else. China is a huge market for infant formula and it has had other, most recently in 2004 when 13 babies died in Anhui province after being fed formula with no nutritional content. The current outbreak is reported to be in remote areas.

The current scandal won’t do much for the already seriously damaged “Made in China” brand.