Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on September 25, 2008
Alarmed by the news from China, more countries are banning the import of products containing Chinese milk. The latest: South Korea. The French are taking matters even further: They’re banning the import of products just on the possibility that they might contain Chinese milk. France “does not import Chinese dairy products but has halted imports of Chinese biscuits, candy or other foods that could contain Chinese dairy derivatives,” the AP reports. “The French government described the measure as a precaution.”
I’m certainly not an expert, but I suspect there’s really no scientific reason to be worried about eating a cookie or a piece of candy with a trace amount of Chinese milk. According to the news reports, the children who have developed kidney stones in China (as well as Hong Kong and Macao) were drinking the contaminated milk itself and drinking lots of it.
Which isn’t to minimize the extent of the tragedy that so many Chinese people are now enduring. As we look at the reaction of government officials and talk about what companies are losers and what companies are winners from the scandal, it’s important not to lose track of the truth at the center of this case. People decided it would be a good idea to take an industrial chemical used in production of plastics and leather and put it in milk. It’s shocking. Shocking, unless last year’s Made-in-China scandals made you suspicious of Chinese quality standards; in that case, maybe the latest scandal is sadly predictable.
Either way, thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of babies have gotten kidney stones from drinking this poison. Kidney stones. As someone who has had several kidney-stone attacks (my latest was a few months ago), I know how agonizingly painful they can be. Lie-down-on-the-floor-and-scream-for-morphine painful. Thousands of babies are now enduring that sort of pain. Some - the official number is currently four - have died. Meanwhile, parents are in a different sort of agony, knowing that they unwittingly gave their children poison. All because dairy producers decided to take some short cuts – and government officials didn’t have their act together enough to notice.