poison formula now?

December 9th, 2012

And this morning’s news brings a report of a two month old baby in Zigong, Sichuan becoming ill after drinking New Zealand infant formula. A Ms Yin of Zigong, Sichuan, on the birth of her grandson, got online and found out that New Zealand infant formula is good quality. A shop nearby was selling “咔旺” infant formula, claiming to be from New Zealand, so on October 7 she bought eight cans and the shop gave her a ninth for free.

At 8pm on November 10 she gave her grandson his first feed*. Up until this point she hadn’t noticed any problem with the formula. But her grandson refused to drink the third feed. Whatever milk he could be persuaded to take he threw up and his behaviour was unusual. At 10am on November 11 as she opened the can to prepare another bottle of milk, she noticed a stench of mouldy bread coming from the can. That afternoon Ms Yin and some family members returned to the store, who took them to the hospital, but the doctor sent them home with instructions to see if the baby had diarrhoea or not and how serious the vomiting was and to take the formula in to be tested. Trouble was, the local Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision said they couldn’t test the formula, and the Zigong Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said they needed five unopened cans from the same batch to run a test. The shop, which is part of a chain, higher offices in the chain, and the China rep of Kraalcow all said that the batch had been sold out and they had none left. Some other stores in the chain apparently had formula of the same brand, but different batches.

My first reaction to the situation as described in this article would be to check the production and use by dates on the cans, and then to look closer to see if the dates had been altered. But my impression from this article is that this Ms Yin is neither thick nor uneducated, and given that the child had drunk the formula for a month before a problem appeared, and given how many people (Ms Yin and family, the shop, the journalist, doctor, CDC, Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision) somebody must have suggested checking the dates. After all, it is certainly not unknown for unscrupulous merchants to either sell out of date product or alter the dates on product.

But something just does not ring true. I already linked to the 咔旺 website above. “Kraalcow” is apparently the English name. “Kraal”? Isn’t that South African? Yeah, true, we got a lot of South Africans, especially of the pallid variety, moving to NZ with the fall of apartheid, but I have never heard the word ‘kraal’ spoken and have only ever read it in a South African context. Looking at the bottom of Kraalcow’s homepage I see .桂ICP备123456号, which suggests to me the website is registered in Guangxi in the south of China. Following  the link to the MII website is not immediately helpful, unfortunately. Looking at Kraalcow’s ‘about’ page I see claims of a relationship to New  Zealand. I can see neither Kraalcow  nor Dairy Group (NZ) Limited on the list of registered dairy exporters, and Kraalcow does not seem to be a registered trademark in New Zealand, although the Companies Office has Dairy Group (NZ) Limited registered to one xie ,weixin or Weixin XIE. The address given for the registered office, address for service, and the director is 8 Apsley Rise, Henderson, Waitakere, 0612 , New Zealand, looks awfully residential on a Google NZ maps search (note: on Google NZ maps just search 8 Apsley Rise; adding anything like Henederson, Waitakere, etc seems to really confuse google). Kraalcow claims to meet the standards of the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, but searches of the NZSFA website seem to turn up nothing for either Kraalcow or Dairy Group.

Kraalcow’s ‘Contact us‘ page gives a New Zealand website whose text is written in a style that strikes me as being distinctly Chinese. Not just that, but incomplete:

Our pastures are situated at ………..and ………… .

(图片 : Kraalcow 牧场在新西兰国土的位置标注图)

Oh dear. But more importantly, look at this from the same page:

We have the world’s most pure and lush pastures. Blue sky, white clouds, boundless
green grass and white fence bordered lands constitute New Zealand’s most characteristic style, an idyllic landscape.

Livestock raising is New Zealands largest industry. On average there are 17.5 cows for every New Zealander. Presently, New Zealand is the only milk producing country not to have had cases of Bird Flu, Mad Cow disease and Foot-and-Mouth disease. Every cow is completely naturally raised and consumes the world’s safest food- no pollution, hormones or genetically modified food.
A fine and pure natural environment together with superior quality soil that are regarded as the world’s best milk producing conditions enable New Zealand to produce the top quality, first class milk power.

Look, us Kiwis are known to talk up the virtues of our islands, but would any of us make claims like this? Well, maybe… but this looks an awful lot like how allegedly New Zealand infant formula is marketed on TV here in China. And the claims on that website simply do not match the single storey suburban Auckland house that Google NZ maps reveals. The ‘contact us‘ page is also considerably less than useful. And is that a Sutton Group building pictured on Kraalcow’s site? Y’know, I’m struggling to see a mention of Sutton Group on Kraalcow’s sites.

So what am I to conclude from all this? So far as I can tell, Kraalcow has no connection to New Zealand beyond somebody involved with the business living in West Auckland. Is this yet another case of somebody using NZ’s good name to make a fast buck? It certainly seems so. But if so, it’s quite an elaborate, if somewhat incomplete scam.

*first and third in the paragraph I’m summarising here don’t make a whole lot of sense. I’m guessing “first and third from the package just opened”.

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