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Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on September 22, 2008
The American financial crisis may be dominating the headlines in most of the world, but in China the top story is the scandal involving milk contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine. After all of the Made-in-China scandals last year surrounding toys, food, drugs and other products, you might think this is a dog-bites-man story: Some Chinese factories use hazardous materials in their products? Everyone already knows that. Still the numbers here are shocking: Nearly 53,000 Chinese children - almost all of them babies - sickened, 13,000 hospitalized, over 100 in serious condition, and at least four dead after developing kidney stones caused by the tainted milk.
And this scandal is just beginning. Until a few days ago, it was a China-only story, but now it’s spreading beyond the PRC. Supermarkets in Hong Kong have yanked some dairy products from their shelves after a local girl was hospitalized after drinking mainland milk. A Taiwanese company, King Car, has recalled its instant soup and powdered coffee. A Japanese company, Marudai Food, on Saturday announced a recall of five products made with Chinese milk. In Singapore, the BBC reports, officials have ordered a recall on White Rabbit candy after finding the Chinese-made sweet contained melamine. “Recalls of Chinese-made dairy products are now under way in Japan, Malaysia, and Brunei as well,” the BBC says. Three African countries have banned Chinese milk imports, reports AFP.
So far no American company has had to recall anything because of this scandal. But with so much of the processed food industry having shifted production to China, don’t count on that luck lasting. Let’s hope I’m wrong, but it’s probably just a matter of time before companies start pulling food containing Chinese milk from American store shelves.
BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.