November 13th, 2012
And so somebody in New Zealand finally notices that China is rejecting substandard infant formula imported from New Zealand. And no, there’s no indication that this lowly blog, my meagre efforts, and the great assistance of Messrs Martinsen and Ji had anything to do this, no. Christopher Adams had a look at People’s Daily’s English site and Shanghai Daily (go to his article for the links) and tracked down the same Ioland site that provides a Ningbo address (wait… does the fact that his link opens to Ioland’s Chinese page imply he reads Chinese? I don’t know, but I hope so – Sinoliterate NZ journalists could only be a positive development). But does this imply that only Christopher Adams of the NZ Herald has noticed? Try again… Apparently, yes.
This worries me because the implications for New Zealand’s economy if this substandard New Zealand infant formula and fake New Zealand brand story continues to build steam here are not exactly positive. If New Zealand doesn’t sort this issue out then it could well find its biggest export earner frozen out of its biggest potential market.
But Mr Adams did manage to get in touch with Sutton Group and Carrickmore Nutrition – and I note a Carrickmore Limited of New Zealand is named in that Word document Mr Ji found yesterday for problems with its labelling. These four
paragraphs sentences are what leap out at me:
James Shortall of Sutton Group would not confirm or deny whether the firm made Ioland products.
Some formula was being rejected by Chinese authorities because of different testing regimes in China and New Zealand, and Sutton Group was confident babies would be safe consuming all the products it made, Shortall said.
Chris Claridge, managing director of Christchurch-based infant formula exporter Carrickmore Nutrition, said some of the product rejections in China were “questionable”, but the coverage of the insufficient iodine levels in Ioland products was a concern as it tarnished all New Zealand infant formula brands.
A large number of Chinese baby formula companies were creating “false fronts” by registering in New Zealand, giving the impression they were Kiwi firms, Claridge said.
So, it would seem likely, although by no means certain, that Sutton Group produces Ioland infant formula. But I really don’t see how it’s constructive to blame the different testing regime or label product rejections as “questionable”. Especially considering Sutton Group has failed inspection before. China has standards and a testing regime, New Zealand companies wishing to export to China can find out what they are and can ensure their products meet those standards as measured by that testing regime. And then there’s this:
Michael Barnett, independent chairman of the newly formed New Zealand Infant Formula Exporters Association, with 10 founding members, said the group was working to set standards for exporters, while establishing a “line of communication” with Chinese authorities.
See? That’s a much better approach. Get the industry together, figure out what they need to do to succeed in China, and hopefully take the obvious next step – set up systems and practices to ensure that New Zealand products pass China’s testing regime and meet China’s standards.
I’m really not sure what to make of the final sentence and MPI’s rather enigmatic statement that its figures don’t match those in some Chinese media reports. How do they not match? What are MPI’s figures? How do those figures compare with AQSIQ’s?
But it is nice to see this issue getting some coverage in the New Zealand media. It’s a start. Hopefully this coverage continues and we start to see some answers as to why New Zealand infant formula is failing inspection in China, how this issue can be resolved, and what New Zealand dairy exporters are doing to ensure their products are not rejected by China.