People’s Daily editorial “New Zealand milk powder found with DCD, who has learned the lesson?” captured Chinese official thinking on DCD affair

People’s Daily editor Zhang Xinyu in a signed editorial has criticised the tactics used by  Fonterra and the New Zealand Government t0 minimise the DCD problem as “not smart.”
Zhang notes the Ministry of Primary Industries insists that traces of DCD did not pose a threat to food safety – quoting MPI’s statement that on the highest levels detected, a 60-kg person would need to drink 130 liters of liquid milk or 60 kg of milk powder to reach the standards set by the European Union and to have a negative impact on human health would require ingesting a greater amount.
His editorial goes on to note “This rhetoric sounds really familiar. But can we disregard small traces? Why not announce the specific circumstances involved DCD brand, origin, batch, and milk detected with the the DCD residues?”
newzealandinc.com stresses Zhang’s editorial was published on Monday ahead of Ambassador Carl Worker’s formal representations to Chinese regulator AQSIQ where Worker conveyed a strong assurance from the NZ Government that NZ dairy exports are safe.  But it is telling that at Worker’s Monday meeting, AQSIQ requested a detailed report covering which brands and batches contained DCD residues.
When Chinese want an indication of their Government’s official thinking they turn to the People’s Daily – a newspaper that sits  under the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. The People’s Daily was enamored with New Zealand when its representatives came down here in late December to spruik their services and interview Prime Minister John Key.
Zhang’s signed editorial reveals the “DCD” affair has clearly removed some of that gloss. His editorial gives a telling insight into the hurdles New Zealand has to overcome as officials and Fonterra work to restore the “safe” reputation of NZ dairy exports.

Translation follows:

“New Zealand milk powder found with DCD, who has learned the lesson?”
 
“The lingering ghosts of melamine have yet to dissipate and now DCD has added further “chaos” – New Zealand milk powder containing DCD which is harmful to human health. With these two events following each other in quick succession people’s hearts cannot but skip a beat. Can we drink this milk powder? Can foreign milk be trusted? There is one piece of information we must mention: 95% of New Zealand dairy products are for export, and 80% of Chinese imports come from New Zealand.

New Zealand milk powder has the power to rally the support of Chinese consumers.  The advertising slogan “quality milk from New Zealand” has captured the hearts of countless young parents.  But now comes the news that New Zealand milk powder also has problems. Many parents are anxious. For example, the netizen who said their child was a long-term consumer of New Zealand milk powder said: ” anxious, anxious, anxious! Exactly what milk powder has been found to contain DCD?  There is no need to hold back on releasing this information.”

The DCD incident has generated intense anxiety with many Chinese consumers. So it is very disappointing that in September last year, New Zealand’s largest dairy company Fonterra detected samples of product with a “very small amount” of DCD residue but the news was not released until the 24th of this month by the New Zealand Department of Primary Industries. Moreover, milk powder containing DCD was stopped in its home country, but with no plan to stop selling to China.  This is putting on a “poison” show? (Pun on the term for the term for ‘standing above the crowd’ ). This sort of practice has always helped maintain the interests of capital, by consciously giving a conniving wink but clearly shows extreme disrespect to the Chinese consumer.

Both Fonterra and the New Zealand Government have been anxious to extinguish the flames, and minimise the problem. But this is not smart. In an interview with reporters, the New Zealand Department of Primary Industries insisted that traces of DCD (two melamine is the literal translation) did not pose a threat to food safety, Based on the highest levels detected, a 60-kg person would need to drink 130 liters of liquid milk or 60 kg of milk powder to reach the standards set by the European Union and to have a negative impact on human health would require ingesting a greater amount.  This rhetoric sounds really familiar. But can we disregard small traces? Why not announce the specific circumstances involved DCD brand, origin, batch, and milk detected with the the DCD residues?

The DCD incident has made people ponder the issue of whether foreign milk is reliable and whether Chinese consumers can believe in it unreservedly.  Can we heighten the vigilance of Chinese people toward foreign milk powder?  Actually, Fonterra Group is not the first dairy company in recent years to have come a cropper  in this area. Mead Johnson had its ‘Metalgate’, a Japanese brand had low iodine ; these were some of the safety issues which have formed an endless stream of negative events. According to AQSIQ reports on substandard food published monthly from July 2011 to August 2012 there were 34 batches of more than 270 tons of substandard imported milk powder which were destroyed or returned, of which the majority were infant milk powder. Reporters have learnt those on the list included brands such as  Germany’s, “Holle”,  New Zealand “Carrimore” and Australia’s “Heinz”, to name a few.

That so much foreign milk should have issues seems unthinkable, but is in fact easy to understand. If supervision is not up to standard, or the system has shortcomings then foreign milk will also have the same problems (as Chinese milk). If consumers are too trusting, to the point of being superstitious, then they will easily get carried away by foreign dairy companies. When the huge Chinese market is collectively infatuated with foreign milk powder, to the point that it sells out without the slightest effort being made, and supply can’t meet demand, then it is inevitable that the “carrots will be sold before the dirt is washed off”. Even more ridiculous is that some unscrupulous Chinese businessmen knowing that Chinese crave foreign milk powder, have even rushed offshore to register a foreign brand to make a show of being in earnest about producing foreign milk powder, but the result is inferior quality and we need to guard against this.

Can foreign milk powder take its place on the altar (ie be trusted?)  It’s hard to say with certainty. Regardless of whether it can take its place on the altar, we should be a little bit more clear-headed in our understanding of foreign milk powder, and not be so fanatically obsessed. Of course, both foreign milk powder and locally produced milk powder should adhere to the principles that quality is life, respect the consumer and be responsible to the consumer. There is no need to gloat over the misfortunes of local dairy manufacturers. Instead greater efforts should be made to improve quality and take practical measures to gain the trust of consumers. No matter who they are, if they hurt the consumer they will be abandoned by the consumer. Consumers believe in only one thing and will stick to the one basic need: safety!

Source: People’s Daily – point of view  (Editor: Zhang Xinyu)

 

 

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