Friday, September 19, 2008

Would YOU Buy Milk from China? Or Any Food from China?

Credibility comes and so easily goes. It can be destroyed so easily, and even by others.

Business dealings with the Chinse always tend to have overtones of someone on the make. The old “whats in it for me” concept. Or often, how can I make something out of the transaction....even a bit more than the normal. The usual middle man syndrome.

This week the news all over Asia is the story of contaminated Chinese milk products. Not just a bit contaminated with a few E.coli or as sometimes happens, a small piece of glass or metal that came off equipment. No, this time it is a full blown deliberate addition of nothing less than the toxic chemical, melamine.

And the reason? A deliberate attempt it seems to obfuscate the system by boosting milk protein levels with the addition of the melamine. Just to make a lot more money, as milk is sold on protein content.

After all, even China bans melamine in food products, including milk. Companies it seems may not have been testing for the melamine.........but then, did they really expect the middlemen, those who consolidate milk supply from small producers and deliver to the milk processors, would be ADDING a toxic product to help boost protein levels and hence their profits?

This seems to be the story. No doubt there is more to emerge over the next few days and weeks.

Sure, the factories have been caught out big time. And senior people appear to have been suspended or resigned from the factories already.

Consumers are being screwed again over poor products. This time they are killing children, or making them very unwell. Emotive material and there are widely shown images on Asian TV channels.

Westerners might be crowing a little with the range of regulatory checks and balances, and may seem to show the western style checking schemes of both self regulation and an overarching regulatory system of the government in a good light.

There are already some trends towards increased regulation of previously self regulated areas in western societies. Will this trend accelerate?

Experiences in China reinforce a view that while laws may exist, the regulatory framework and an attitude in business / society seem to thumb their noses at their existence, or use corrupt practices to circumvent them. Has this been the case here?

There is a lot at stake...........including the credibility of much of food production and regulation in China. And do not forget, a lot of fresh Chinese products are exported......quite a few shipments get refused entry to countries over food safety already, without much publicity, eg toxic residues in food, high residual agrochemicals. Not to mention the past problems with lead paint on children's toys.

The stakes are high. Not to mention Chinese government credibility. Will the Australian government impose generally tighter regulations for Chinese food imports to Australia for example?

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