China Poisonous Milk Scandal 2008


On September 11, 2008 China's biggest milk powder producer, the Sanlu Group ordered a recall of its milk products because the company's New Zealand counterpart, Fonterra, found that the milk powder contained melamine, a chemical used in plastics that is banned in food products. The incident resulted in enormous public outrage in China, when it turned out that Sanlu was actually notified about the melamine several weeks earlier, on August 2.

On September 16, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People's Republic of China announced that 22 dairy enterprises, around one fifth of dairy product manufacturers in the country, were involved in the poisonous milk scandal, among them are some major brands such as Yili and Mengniu.

The contamination has resulted in the death of at least 3 babies in China, and 6,244 cases of infant kidney stone disease.

As the whole industry is involved in the scandal, it is not only a corporate responsibility issue, but also a political one, related to government monitoring of food safety. There is strong public demand for thorough investigation of government officials’ role in the issue.

People in China have been further agitated by the Central Propaganda Department interfering with local mainstream media reports and online reactions to the story.

Global Voices posts related to the poisonous milk scandal

Oct 10 – China: Melamine Inevitable, even EU Commissioner
Oct 10 – China: Melamine is Inevitable?
Oct 05 – China milk scandal and South East Asia
Sep 26 – Ripples of the China Milk Scandal in Africa
Sep 24 – China: Infant Formula Scandal Highlights Decline in Breastfeeding
Sep 18 – China: Media Manipulation of Poisonous Milk Powder Scandal
Sep 17 – China: Crisis on “Made in China”
Sep 16 – China: Infant-killer milk powder sickens the country
Sep 15 – Taiwan and China: Fury over poisoned powdered milk

Related stories

Sep 22 – Japan: Missing Pieces in Tainted Rice Scandal

Other links

Oct 10 – David Bandurski from China media project continues to discuss the media's responsibility in the poisonous milk scandal and translates in partial an article “N-number of Ways the Media’s Conscience Can Be Bought” by Meng Bo</a>.

Oct 3 – Brunei's Ministry of Health has published a list of contaminated products from China. Many of the food items are sold in Brunei markets.

Oct 1- Joel Martinsen from DANWEI translated a local report from Mirror about milk industry's promotion strategy – by buying pregnant woman's personal data from hospital.

Sep 30 – David Bandurski from China media project wrote a detailed article about Sanlu's public relation strategy in creating the high-quality image of its milk products and showed how the media is conspired in relaying the lie.

Sep 25 – David Bandurski from China Media Project translated a column article by Liu Yibin at China Youth Daily which suggested that “it would be best for enterprises lacking conscience just to die.” Many netizens echoed with the suggestion.

Sep 24 – ESWN translated a local report from Southern Metropolis Daily on how Chinese search engines and websites are involved in the poisonous milk powder scandal.

Sep 22 – ESWN translated Fu Jianfeng's editor note of an investigative report on the Sanlu poisonous milk which disclosed how the company tried to cover up the scandal.

Sep 20 – Rich from Crossroad points out some potential positive impacts of the poisonous milk scandal on consumer awareness.

Sep 19 – A reporter blogger tells the readers that the poisonous milk powder issue had been reported in some local newspapers for a period of time, and he is the first reporter who decided to publish the brand name “Sanlu”. ESWN translated his post at Tianya, which gives details about local reporters’ pressure in the process of news making.