January 28th, 2013
As is my habit, I picked up a copy of 新京报/The Beijing News on the way to lunch. I was wanting to look at the report on the 4th big smog warning this month, which was the top headline on the front page, but the first thing I saw as I opened the paper was this. Yup, the top half of the front page of the business section was a big graphic on the New Zealand DCD milk incident. Page B03 was a full page of reporting on the incident, with the same reports getting a link reasonably high up on The Beijing News’ front page to an easier-on-the-internet-eye format here.
What in that page’s main article that grabbed my attention was, first of all, just how many times MPI CEO Wayne McNee was reported as saying that the DCD was not directly injected into the milk, but spread on pastures, thereby finding its way indirectly into the milk supply as cows ate grass that had been sprayed with DCD, and that the amount of DCD was tiny and only in a few milk powder products and not in other dairy products, and how many times Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings is reported emphasising that Fonterra’s products are safe. A quote from Spierings as an example:
We know that some consumers and supervision agencies have their suspicions. We must dispel their doubts. At present, we are maintaining close communications with them, providing relevant explanations. We have strong scientific proof of the safety of Fonterra’s products, and will prove again the safety of our products.
But more importantly, at the bottom right of page B03 was a short piece quoting two women, one Ms Ma, who already has a lot of New Zealand infant formula, sent by friends in New Zealand, stored up, and the other, one Ms Liu, seven months pregnant, who has already stored up some New Zealand infant formula. Ms Ma is quoted as saying:
Whether its a big issue or a small problem, I still don’t dare give this formula to my child to drink
even New Zealand milk powder has problems, now I really don’t know where I should go to buy reassuring milk.
I feel it safe to assume the 放心奶/reassuring milk is infant formula one knows to be safe.
Ms Liu wonders whether she should buy infant formula from Europe. Trouble with that is that several reports state that enormous percentages of China’s imported dairy products, including many big European and North American brands of infant formula, source their milk from New Zealand. Percentages that hit 80. For example:
Because 80% of imported milk powder in China is sourced from New Zealand, industry insiders believe that New Zealand milk sources are relatively trusted,
…and it goes on:
the relevant authorities will calm this storm as quickly as possible
And let’s hope so, and let’s hope that they do it properly, because going back to TBN:
As of January 26, after the revelation that some New Zealand milk powder contained residues of DCD, AQSIQ had already urgently requested the New Zealand authorities provide as soon as possible detailed information on the amounts of DCD detected in milk powder and the batches affected. But the relevant authorities have still not stated whether they will test milk powder for DCD.
And I have yet to come across a report stating that MPI has provided AQSIQ with the necessary information. Let’s hope that they have already done so, or at least will do so very soon, because the comments of Ms Ma and Ms Liu above illustrate what New Zealand’s biggest export earner is up against here – if people in the market for stuff, especially essential stuff like food, for their children, don’t trust your products, they ain’t gonna buy. And if you get a reputation for producing poisonous products for their kids, then your even more screwed.
Three straight days of my inbox being full of poisoned New Zealand milk. I’m quite impressed by New Zealand government and industry efforts to get their message out, but I’m still curious to see how this story plays out.