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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Live Blogging at The China International Food Safety and Quality Conference

Well, there are several Chinese delegates missing at today’s opening session. However, all of the speakers thus far have all mentioned the ongoing and growing crisis in China infant formula. The numbers still are shocking – 55,000 sickened, 13,000 hospitalized, hundreds with acute kidney failure and four deaths (assuming these numbers are close to accurate).  Perhaps we really should have the parents of the victims here speaking to the esteemed panelists? I found this quote in the last few moments on AP wire:

"I’m just disappointed because the government should have done more to protect its citizens," said Liao Yanfang, a migrant worker whose 1-year-old son was found to have kidney stones Tuesday at Beijing Children’s Hospital. Since birth, her only child had been drinking infant formula made by the company at the center of the scandal, Sanlu Group Co., she said.

"I fed my baby powdered milk because ads said it was more nutritious than breast milk. We trusted that the government would provide adequate tests to ensure food quality," she said.

Like the cause of food safety problems in the US, my strong suspicion is that milk suppliers find themselves squeezed between the farmers asking for more money and the processors who demand that prices be held down. That squeeze gives suppliers incentives to tamper with the raw milk – adding ingredients like melamine – a relatively cheap binding agent used in plastics and as a flame retardant, is rich in nitrogen, fooling widely used tests that check for protein. When mixed with formaldehyde, it dissolves in water. When mixed with milk and fed to babies, well, you see the result.

While I blogged, I also had some time to talk to the media.

I talked to the Seattle Health Examiner:

Seattle food contamination expert in China as tainted milk sickens thousands of kids

ABC hot reporter Stephanie Sy:

Chinese Tainted Milk Company Accused of Cover-up

And, it is good to see the Haphazard Gourmet Girls spin on:

China Food Safety

  • Todd Gardner

    The right man for the job is there. What do you believe the chances are that the Chinese government will actually listen and perhaps pay out anything to the families that have been so devastated? Do the suppliers understand that in the long run cutting costs in this way will just cost them more, or is their system of corporate governance set up in a way that punitive measures don’t exist or have little impact?