September 9th, 2012
New Zealand prides itself on its clean, green image. New Zealand tries to trade on that image to boost its agricultural exports. Those few companies selling New Zealand produce in China that bother to advertise play up that clean, green, 100% pure image in their advertising – and that makes perfect sense given the constant deluge of food safety scandals in China. Chinese parents are desperate to get their hands on imported milk powder for their babies because nobody trusts the locally produced milk powder or local dairy companies any more. And now what happens? After Friday’s reports of substandard and fake New Zealand milk powder, today comes more news of substandard New Zealand milk powder.
Both those articles report the same story. AQSIQ‘s latest information about substandard imported food and cosmetics shows that in July 300 batches of imported food and cosmetics failed to meet the standards. The line that really stands out to me in the Nanfang Daily report is this:
记者从上述公开的信息表中看到，在今年以来进口量持续攀高的洋奶粉中，多批次洋婴儿奶粉检出问题，其中由新西兰SUTTON GROUP LTD公司生产的24.76吨佳顿可儿金装婴幼儿配方奶粉，1阶段、2阶段和3阶段共计3个批次产品检出硒、碘、乳糖含量不符合国家标准要求，现问题产品 已被退货和销毁
This reporter saw from the above publicly open information that among the continuously increasing amounts of Western milk powder imported since the start of this year, many batches of Western infant formula have been found to have problems, including 24.76 tons of Golden Baby gold packaged infant formula produced by New Zealand’s Sutton Group [this one? Doesn't seem to have much to say about it's products]. A total of three batches, stages 1, 2 and 3 were found to have levels of selenium, iodine and lactose that failed to meet the requirements of the national standards. The problematic products have been recalled and destroyed.
Compare that to the Yoplait yoghurt imported from France mentioned in the same article: 0.44 tons past its use-by date and destroyed. It doesn’t even give an amount for the American cheese caught with too much sobric acid preservative, so I assume that was an even tinier amount.
Zero point four four tons of expired yoghurt versus twenty four point seven six tons of substandard milk powder. And reported in one of China’s bigger, more respected newspapers among other websites. Geez, Sutton Group, what’s going on? Are you actively trying to put a sudden end to your China business?
And come on New Zealand Inc, lift your game. It really does not take much time for China’s consumers to decide en masse that they no longer trust you, especially when what you are selling is targeted at their children. Companies importing New Zealand milk powder to China play up very strongly New Zealand’s clean, green, 100% pure and natural reputation. Chinese parents lap that up because they want, as all parents do, their children to be healthy, safe and well-nourished, and they don’t trust China’s dairy industry thanks to all the scandals over fake, adulterated, or otherwise substandard milk powder over recent years. If you want to close China’s market to you, keep going down this path of selling fake and substandard rubbish.
A more positive item in today’s email news alert was this one about plans to open a store in Changchun specialising in New Zealand products by the end of the year. It starts by mentioning the large amount of interest in New Zealand products, especially lifestyle and food products, at the 8th Northeast Asia Investment and Trade Expo, and goes on to say that one Guo Yanxi, general manager China region for 新西兰高德赛（长春）商贸有限公司, explaining that this is the third time New Zealand products have been displayed at the Northeast Asia Expo and the interest generated has prepared the market well. Their store specialising in New Zealand products is being decorated and will be able to formally open by the end of the year, selling the products displayed at the expo and later expanding the range of products on offer. But why did I leave the company name untranslated? Because this is about the best information I’ve managed to find about it. I’m struggling to see a New Zealand connection in that. In fact, it simply says its head office is abroad, somewhere not in China. Maybe I’m getting a bit too sceptical of these things, but a warning light is on here.