Monday, September 22, 2008

Tainted Milk - Tip of an Iceberg

As I predicted, the damage of the recent tainted milk scandal in China has spread like uncontrollable wild fire. Japan Today reported that the Chinese Health authorities have reported over 39,000 cases reported as treated and recovered while another 13,000 infants are still hospitalised. Yahoo News reported today that over 13,000 infants were taken ill and 80% of the those affected were under 2 years old.

Contaminated products now extend beyond just baby milk powder. More contamination were reported found in regular milk (reported by Star World 19/9/08) while it was reported that Hong Kong authorities have found melamine contamination in drinks, ice-creams and yogurt made by Yili, one of the big brands that was selling the contaminated milk on the mainland. It was also reported that Hong Kong's two main supermarket chains were recalling milk powder made by Swiss manufacturer Nestle after a newspaper reported it contains melamine. It's a case of better be sorry than wrong.

As the damage spreads, countries including Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan and Brunei have been reported to either ban or recall all China imported dairy products. The first case of kidney stone as a result of drinking melamine tainted milk was also reported in Hong Kong over the weekend to a 3 year old girl. Meanwhile Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has also issued a warning that White Rabbit Creamy Bar, a popular Chinese brand of sweet milk was also found contaminated with melamine. It was reported in the Star World news on the 20th September 2008 that Singapore's AVA have also found traces of melamine in their Dutch Lady-brand strawberry milk manufactured in China.

Taiwanese company King Car Co. was reported to have announced recalling packs of it's Mr. Brown instant coffee and milk powder imported from China.

Fonterra, the New Zealand based multinational company and world largest exporter of dairy products who owns a miniority 43% shares of the scandal related Sanlu in China, assures consumers in Malaysia that their products which include Annum, Fernleaf, Anlene, Chesdale and Anchor are 100% safe. It claims that all it's dairy products in Malaysia have been using only imported milk from New Zealand.

Although Malaysia has assured that we do not import any dairy products from China and have banned the import of such products, I'm not sure whether the government could control the entry of such products via other `means'. There are many greedy businessmen out there who would `go all out' to earn an extra dollar and Chinese products with their low cost would certainly looked attractive. In fact, during one of my conversation with one of the retailers, he was taken aback and told me that While Rabbit Creamy Bar was found to be contaminated. He claimed that he apparently have carried such stock in his store before although he doesn't have any of them now. Well, although this claim could not be vouched, but there is a real risk that such products could have entered the country unknown to our government.

It was reported in the Star World news today (22/09/08) that more than 40 tonnes of Chinese-imported food products has been recalled in South Korea since 2006 because they contained inedible and harmful substances. It was reported by Yonhap news agency that 40.6 tonnes of imports had been discarded as bacteria, carcinogens (any substance that is any agent directly involved in the promotion of cancer) and other banned additives were found in them. Their food safety regulators reports Chinese-imported cookies and cakes were last year found repeatedly to contain cancer-causing substances like cyclamate nitrofuran. 13 tonnes of Chinese-imported snacks were also reported recalled earlier this year.

It's shocking. For now, I am checking the manufacturing and packaging country of all the products that I'm picking up from the shelves and anything that distinctly looks like there are being from China would definitely remain on the shelves and not my home.

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