September 17, 2008

Poisoned powder milk in China – why Bangladesh needs to worry

[First published in E-Bangladesh]

The world came to know about the horror only a couple of days ago that the powdered milk products produced by the Sanlu Group in China were contaminated by melamine after hundreds of Chinese babies were hospitalized for having kidney stones and some had kidney failures.

On 11th of September Sanlu first defended that “their milk powder has no problem” then announced a recall of its products. Global Voices reports:
“By estimation, the tainted formula amount to 700 tons. Not until this moment were millions of babies protected from the deadly dairy products. There are over 30 thousand potential victims (in china) predicted from Sanlu’s influence in domestic market.”

Three children already died till yesterday and the number of sick children has risen to 6200. Chinese state-run media announced that 21 more companies were found producing milk powder tainted with melamine.

A New Zealand media reveals that:
“SanLu knew six months ago that babies were becoming sick as a result of drinking infant formula containing melamine - a chemical banned from food.

A New Zealand dairy Giant Fonterra, which owns 43 per cent of SanLu and has three directors on its board, also knew of the contamination for six weeks before a public recall, which began only after the New Zealand Government blew the whistle.”

Global Voices quoted a Taiwanese blogger:
“Before the Olympic Games, China government gave orders to cover all the reports that might destroy the image of China. The Sanlu Group discovered the contamination just before the Olympic Games, and we can see the China government chose to let their people die so that they can keep the positive image of China.”

“The Sanlu Group claimed that the melamine found in their powdered milk was added by the dairy farmers and milk dealers to meet the nitrogen standard after they added water to dilute the milk. However, not everyone believes their claim.“

25 tons of powered milk products manufactured by the Sanlu Group were exported to Taiwan this August and it created a lot of panic in the country.

And Bangladesh should also worry because AP reveals that:
State broadcaster CCTV reported on its Tuesday evening newscast that One company, based in the southern province of Guangdong, exported its products abroad — to Bangladesh, Yemen, and Burma.

The Bangkok post informs:
"Two Chinese firms where tests found tainted milk products had exported baby formula milk powder to five countries including Bangladesh and Burma

The Suokang and Yashili companies had started to recall their exported milk powder products, which were also sent to Yemen, Burundi and Gabon, said Li Changjiang, the head of the State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ)."

We are yet to see any Bangladeshi media asking questions about this import. The Chinese milk powder imports may be hard to locate if they were imported loose and later packed in another label. Some months ago a milk powder consignment of Abul Khair group was detained because their expiry date overrun. We have seen in TV reports that the consignment was packed in large sacks to be repacked in local brands.

Arup reveals that the popular brands of Fronterra, the major shareholders of Sanlu are:

Anchor and Anlene are famous brands in Bangladesh. So there should be a nationwide awareness campaign to demand from the sellers the origin of the milk and to stop consuming non-trusted baby milk.

I hope the Bangladesh Government will take immediate action to withdraw the milks imported from China from the market and ban future imports until everything is sorted out.


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