Joe Hendren

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fonterra Baby Milk scandal: Reaction in the Philippines

While the Fonterra baby milk scandal was big news in New Zealand, I did not appreciate its global significance until I saw the following in a 7-11 in Manilla, Philippines.

Yesterday New Zealand newspapers reported that three Fonterra products have been removed from the Philippine market by the Philippines Bureau of Food and Drugs. This includes Anchor Warm flavoured-milk products - Mango Magic, Orange Chill and Strawberry Spin - which the bureau said were not produced in New Zealand. The reason for the removal is to allow the products to be tested.

I can imagine some in New Zealand will see this as an overreaction. From here in the Philippines I sense it is not. People are genuinely concerned, if not a little worried. When people hear I am from New Zealand the issue often comes up in conversation.

Newspapers like the Philippine Daily Enquirer have been running half page advertisements with the results of the testing, listing the products found with melanin and the products that are safe.

When asked about the issue by the locals, I am not defending Fonterra, even if the rural sector millionaires would think it should be my patriotic duty. Perhaps if they had shown more care and attention about the welfare of their tiny Chinese customers, such as monitoring their subsidiaries more closely, their millions would not be at stake. It also would have helped if Fonterra had come clean about the issue earlier, even if China was not willing to fully co-operate.

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