Following a myriad of health scandals, many Chinese parents have dumped domestic milk formula brands in favor of international ones. But that’s not always such a safe choice either.
Case in point: On Sunday, Shanghai police announced the arrest of 19 people who are suspected of repackaging 276 tons of New Zealand’s Fonterra milk powder into smaller packages before selling them to online retailers at knockdown prices, CCTV News reports.
Police first discovered the repackaged products during a raid in March of the Shanghai-based trading firm’s warehouse. More raids followed, uncovering 109.2 tons of expired milk powder in the warehouse, in addition to 166.8 tons already sold to online retailers operating in Jiangsu, Henan and Qinghai provinces, as well as in Shanghai. Authorities have since shut down the sites of online retailers who bought the expired milk powder.
Fortunately, so far there have not been any reports of health problems resulting from the expired milk powder.
New Zealand’s Stuff.co.nz reports that Fonterra, one of China’s favorite foreign milk powder brands, was blindsided by the arrests. A company spokesperson emphasized on Monday night that the criminal activity in this case had occurred “much further along the supply chain.”
“While we believe this is an isolated criminal incident, we are reviewing the case internally,” she said.
This isn’t the first time that Fonterra has made headlines in China. Back in 2013, the company’s milk products were pulled from shelves when it emerged that they were potentially contaminated with bacteria which can cause botulism. During the resulting scandal, former head of Fonterra, Sir Henry van der Heyden, apologized “to China, its people and its government” and most of the New Zealand government traveled to China to try and mitigate the damage.
In the end, further testing found that the milk products were not contaminated after all, and the company’s image quickly rebounded in China. We will have to wait and see how the company weathers this latest storm.