Return of China's Milk Issue
Image Credit: Marina Shemesh

Return of China's Milk Issue


China’s food safety standards are under fire again as a 4-year-old boy lies dead, and his mother in a coma, after drinking a bottle of Minute Maid strawberry-flavored milk last Tuesday that police say was laced with toxic pesticide.  The incident has drawn attention to the country’s weak – and possibly weakening – standards for safe milk, and raised the specter of powerful special interests. In doing so, it has also created a political opportunity to level accusations at large Chinese companies unconnected with the latest case of poison milk.

Food safety is a perennially explosive issue in China, and milk the biggest one since the 2008 Sanlu milk powder scandal exposed state-owned companies and officials suppressing the recall of a product that sickened tens of thousands of infants in order to protect their careers.

Chinese parents who could afford it turned away from Chinese-made milk products after the 2008 scandal – I’ve heard that importing foreign milk into China is still as good as a license to print money.  So a poisoning scandal involving Minute Maid, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola, is a particular shock. The Coca-Cola company, however, isn’t a milk importer – its overseas bottling plants are locally run using largely domestic supply chains, and the Financial Times reports that many Weibo users aren’t blaming the company:

“But very few of the Weibo comments about the Coke incident blamed the famous drinks brand. Most Weibo comments appeared to assume that the poisoning was deliberate and not the result of a lapse in quality control by Coke.”

The Chinese public has instead turned its attention to China’s food safety administration, which issued a set of remarkably weak standards for milk in June – including, remarkably, lowering the minimum protein content of milk sold in China from 2.95 per hundred grams to 2.8 – a significant step away from the developed world standard of 3.0.  The poisoning in the Sanlu scandal was caused by melamine, an industrial chemical which manufacturers used to disguise low protein contents.  The new standards also allow milk to contain as many as 2 million bacteria per milliliter, some 20 times the allowable amount in the United States and EU.

The sheer audacity of lowering China’s most-watched food safety standard has raised suggestions of powerful special interests – an article in The People’s Daily quoted Zeng Shouying, vice director of the Dairy Industry Committee of China Dairy Association claiming that China's three major dairy companies exploited their advisory role in the drafting committee to remove tougher standards proposed by experts.  The Ministry of Health responded yesterday in the pages of the same paper, telling the journalist that “it was right that dairy producers, crucial to the safety of their produce, should be represented in the drafting committee.”

It may be surprising to some to see accusations of corruption emerging in the pages of an “official mouthpiece” – but in fact it is fairly normal for a newspaper that often seems to function as an in-house journal for the Communist Party – carrying regular top-down announcements from the club president, but equally often essays and remarks about ideas under debate by the members. The milk issue gave Zeng a chance to complain about the increasing power of state-owned companies to influence policy through economic might and cozy relationships with ministries – a theme that seems to be generating discomfort among a growing section of the Chinese government.

At any rate, focusing on the irregular dealings of the three big dairy SOEs is a stroke of luck for one party to the milk issue – Coca-Cola.  

December 8, 2011 at 08:52

@ huang – see the several links that I posted above? Read it and try to understand it. Not that hard to understand.

That is how people debate. We debate by make our statements and then give links/stories/sources from well know neutral parties to back up our statements.

This article is about dirty/poisonouse milk in china, NOT about how you live your life or what kind of losers you had as friends, understand?

Now you know why I made the statement of “pull a china – running away with tails between legs”? If chinese posters would dare to debate with me by FACTS instead of rambling about something else, I would not need to say so. So far, not one chinese posters were able to dispute any of my posts in this website. NOT ONE. How pathetic.

If you continue what you were doing, then you admit that I was right and you were wrong because you still haven’t dispute any of my statements by FACTS. Do they have smart people in china anymore?

December 8, 2011 at 08:43

Again,and as always,your last-of-the-minute attachments or cling-on remarks this time was for some reasons omitted the rest of my final sentence.
Again, let me re-post it so that you understand what I wrote. I wrote that there are more good and kind people in China than nay countries in the entire World..”IF you are willing and able to un-lock your heart and mind to learn more about.”
As always, you feel I have to provide a link or just any links(even fakes are good as long as they are from a link.).I say I will provide you NO LINKS. As for why I mentioned China has the MOST kind people is simple and obvious if only you un-lock YOUR heart and mind too in order to facilitate what heaven bestowed upon you since the day you were born. Still not clear ? Leave it aside for your future understandings.

December 8, 2011 at 02:54

@Huang: Here you go, dancing around the issue again. You’re confused, shamed, defensive and irrational…
What Firemage wrote completely makes sense…and his conclusion came from a scientific study results: cruel to animals, big potential to be cruel to human.
You even shamelessly claim “Finally, there are more good and kind people in China than any countries in the entire World”… what a crap! Give us some figures from some credible research to back you up, otherwise we’re laughing at you and your china.

December 7, 2011 at 11:06

How ironic ! You wrote of the cruelties of the Chinese toward “defenseless animals” with the languages of “Hates”.
Your words alone are more than enough to describe that sort of an animal lovers or abuser you are.
Try to be human. Try to understand others with human heart,not human hates. Try to see others with good emotions,NOT un-healthy emotional out-bursts. Finally, there are more good and kind people in China than any countries in the entire World if you are willing or able to un-lock your heart and mind to learn more about.

December 7, 2011 at 10:55

I have already gone on to the other articles since I last post here; thats why I did not see your replies. Unfortunately, your replies are in-line with what I recognized as “emotional outbursts” and NOTHING else.
As far as “tail or even tails between legs”, You and many others just don’t have the capacity to take return critisms. I have seen and known that kind of characters from my own inter-actions with other children during my childhood. I used to hate it and still not having any good perception of it and never will.
As for cowardice, there are terms just as yellow-belly,brown-belly,pink-belly,and red-belly… that I have heard in the past too. I don’t and will never allow myself the need to use such degrading and self-gratifying terms against other people. The people who find the needs to use such terms automatically teeling me their own real weakness.
Believe me; I know a coward when I see one or see their remarks in writing.

December 6, 2011 at 11:22

@ huang – I sent a reply to you a few days ago with several links to backup my statements but look like the Moderator team did not want too much of outside links.

Again, point out what I said in my previous posts that were not true and dispute them with FACTS by well know neutral sources instead of same old lines from the ccp such as “emotional”, “biased”, etc.

Besides the poisonous milk in this article, china and chinese have to deal with dirty air, dirty water, dirty pork, and on and on, too much to list.

If you don’t believe me, just Google “china pollution pictures” (without the quotes) and see for yourself.

Now it is your turn. Oh, where are the rest of chinese posters? Where are all the braggings and boastings?

Now you know why I said “running away with tail between legs”?

December 5, 2011 at 12:51

Nuf said!!

December 5, 2011 at 10:21

I’ve visited China several times and one thing I’ve noticed is that their society as a whole is well behind the leading western nations on the subject of ethics.

The treatment of animals is a suprisingly accurate measure of a nation’s ethical progressiveness and I was regularly shocked by the animal cruelty in China.

Pet shops cram animals into tiny cages, live animals have their heads bashed into the sidewalk to render them some-what unconcious during the slaughtering process, unwanted puppies abandoned and left to freeze to death in the snow…

It is not suprising that people in China act unethically towards other humans when they lack any compassion for defenceless creatures.

December 5, 2011 at 10:08

I have learned to buy NOTHING thats made in China. #1 Im trying to put Americans back to work, #2 Chinese manufacturers supply junk because PROFIT is more important.

December 4, 2011 at 08:19

In that case, I would have to say “any services or sincere deeds for China will be much appreciative.” Hows my dance now @ a-canadian-observer ?
Please don’t take it personal when I ceased to post any more response to your unique comments in the future.(speaking to canadian-observer)
I love to dance a lot,but providing the truths about China and the CCP is much more important to the readers of “The Diplomat” than dancing around in circle.
Again, its a two-way street… know.(also for canadian observer).
You guys ….. Have a happy..happy…Holiday and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year !

December 4, 2011 at 08:03

Again, I have to say that what guys called/considered “debates” are actually meticulously channelled emotional “exhausts” and it appears that the more emotional outbursts you guys vented, the more tighter you guys’ sentiments become as illustrated time and ago on this site.
For the sake of keep the environment clean and respectable, you guys need to loosen up a big chunk of that mind clogging “thing”. Besides, I also found that while you guys have the audacities to use insults at CCP and never able to face the return complements(insults). It reminded me of one “soft temper”…. childhood class mate I had years ago. He hit me while he was laughing. He rolled on the dirt when I returned the favors.
Hell ! What I try to say is that we are all living in the same World and discussions on any issue can be both fun and educational if both sides observe the same code of conduct.

December 4, 2011 at 00:05

@HHop: Once again, verry well said! Let’s see which dance Huang comes up with now.

December 4, 2011 at 00:02

@Huang: Reminder #3. I can see that you’re starting a new dance around session. Get on track and debate Observer, with facts.

December 4, 2011 at 00:00

@Huang: Reminder #2: I can see that you’re starting a new dance around session. Get on track and debate Observer.

December 3, 2011 at 23:54

@ huang – again, point out what I said in my previous post -“poisonous meat, recycling dirty cooking oil, explosive watermelons, tained milk, contaminated medicines, fake goods, etc. and now milk with poison” that was NOT true. Very simple request to understand. Am I going too fast for you?

Tail between legs is a true statement. Why don’t you tell us about all the “victories” against Japan, Britain, Manchu, Mongol?

Our countries are doing fine, that is why we do NOT need to brag excessively as chinese posters.

Substance-less, nonsense? Here are mine =



Shall I go on?

Now it is your turn. Let see who is the one with nonsense, emotional outbust, and substance-less. Like I said, a mind is a terrible thing to waste, use it.

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