Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Killing with Kindness

As you, dear reader, will know I'm going to be (hoping all goes well) a father for the first time in December.

There are a number of concerns I have about having a child in China (for example the hospitals, the education system and the absence of a safety culture) but even the basics are a bit of a concern.

One of the problems I had hoped had been fixed was the issue of fake baby milk. This issue reared its head in 2004 when 10 brands of fake and counterfeit baby milk powders were found to be on sale - but not found until an estimated 200 babies had died horribly of malnutrition and many others had swollen heads.

Some of the other notable scandals since I've been living in China (note: that's not an admission of guilt...)
  • Tofu made from "gypsum, paint and starch, then fried in oil made from kitchen waste and swill"
  • Rabies vaccine that was actually just salt water
  • Fake alcoholic drinks made with methanol
Now faking products has a fairly long history is nothing new in China, but whatever Louis Vuitton, Philip Morris and Rolex think of their products being copied and sold at low, low prices, it's a lot more understandable than things like these.

One of the biggest worries for me has always been counterfeits rather than fakes. I recall during the baby milk scare that some of the fake milk had been packaged as premium brand milk and was for sale in reputable supermarkets who had been hoodwinked by someone in their supply chain to accepting the counterfeits.

It's astounding that a group of people (and there must be a number of people knowingly involved to produce the 'product' and packaging, and infiltrate the supply chain) could be sufficiently cold-hearted to sell fake baby milk, knowing it had no nutritional value and that babies would inevitably die as a result. It's quite sickening to see the level of brutality and pain that these reprehensible people would be prepared to inflict on others for their own personal gain. So it was quite a relief when the whole thing was cleared up.

Or so I thought.

So, it's almost two years since that scandal and what's the latest scandal?
30% of Infant Milk Formula Does not Meet Quality Standard

So, two companies have been blacklisted but 30% failed to meet quality standards?

I know there are many arguments about breastfeeding being vastly superior than using Formula but for many reasons there will surely be times it is inevitable.

In a country where even foreign giants like Nestle (admittedly with a fairly controversial history itself with regard to Infant Formula) have admitted that "some non-Nestle products had been repackaged using Nestle packaging and labelling" my problem is who or what do I trust? I would very happily by the best brands from the best stores if that meant giving my child a guarantee of high quality nutrition but I'm not sure how I can believe that even these products are of the same quality that I would expect in the UK. Perhaps its time to order a crate from home now...


The Humanaught said...

This is something I consider more and more as my time in China expands from the feet-wet initial entry to the never-ending point is at now... what kind of effect are these products having on me.

Every time I look at that QS logo on my water cooler's bottle I think how easy it is to put that on a product's package - and how quickly when I see it I assume it's high quality - especially when I buy from a big chain supermarket.

I think I'll start shopping exclusively in the foreign-imports section of Carrefour and Metro.

dB said...

Look on the bright side. You'll probably get run over before the fake supermarket goods get you...

Naomi said...

I am about to join my partner in Hangzhou and have 2 young kids (ps congratulations on your impending fatherhood by the way!)
I was a little shocked to read about the milk powder scandel...though in retrospect why does this not surprise me! It is a worry though...I am interested in getting in touch with other "westies" with kids to get to know what is around especially with regards to mother and baby groups, toddler sessions, schools, doctors and the like? any ideas?

The China Expat said...

Just to let everyone know, the recent article about infant formula in China is here. Just wanted anyone to be able to see the story if they wanted to.