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Parents to sue over tainted milk powder

2013-04-03 09:53 Global Times     Web Editor: Sun Tian comment

A number of Beijing parents told the Global Times Wednesday they plan to sue a Swiss food company and its Chinese distributor after allegations that adulterated infant formula has harmed their children's health.

Xile Lier, a Suzhou, Jiangsu Province-based sub-distributor of Swiss consumer-foods company Hero Group's products in China, has been accused of adulterating its Nutradefense infant formula. According to a China Central Television report on March 28, Xile Lier mixed expired Chinese formula with imported formula, changed sell-by dates and repackaged formula for older babies as more expensive formula for younger children. The product was labeled "100 percent imported from the Netherlands."

Suzhou commerce authorities closed the factory in November 2012, but did not order a recall or alert consumers.

The former manager of Xile Lier, Mou Jun, claimed he did it because demand in China outstripped supply, according to the Shanghai Daily Monday.

Wang Lei, a representative of the Beijing parents, who has a 1-year-old daughter, claimed his daughter lost weight after being fed on Nutradefense.

"Her immune system is so bad that she got pneumonia twice and bronchitis. She always has a cold," said Wang.

Wang said that because the milk powder has a good reputation, he did not doubt it.

"I've tasted the milk myself; it tastes lighter than other milk powder. I thought it may be because it didn't have additives like flavorings," said Wang, adding that the 800 gram tin cost around 180 yuan ($29).

Zhao Hongliang, the lawyer representing the parents, said that he has asked them to choose five representatives, because it will be hard to count how many parents are involved.

Zhao said they want an apology and compensation for buying the adulterated formula.

"We also want them to pay insurance for each child until the age of 18," said Zhao.

Zhao noted that he is optimistic about the result because the problems have been widely reported in the media.

Hero announced in a press release on its website that despite the information in the media, neither it nor the Chinese authorities have found Hero's products on the market are unsafe for consumption. Hero regrets the worry caused by the alleged behavior of a sub-distributor, it said.

Chinese parents have been extremely concerned about the quality of infant formula since the Sanlu milk powder scandal in 2008, in which formula was tainted with melamine. At least six babies died and thousands were hospitalized.

"Mixing less nutritious powder into infant formula is so harmful to children that it is like poison," Fan Zhihong, a food safety expert with China Agricultural University, told the Global Times Tuesday.

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