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FOOD SAFETY

Consumer advocate sues top mainland dairy for mislabelling

The case, filed in Chongqing, says the big characters on the front of the carton misrepresent the milk that's inside

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 August, 2014, 1:26pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 August, 2014, 6:29pm
 

Mainland dairy giant Mengniu is being sued on the claim that one of its popular children’s products, which it labels as pure milk, is in fact modified milk.

Chongqing Jiangbei District People’s Court accepted the case last week after it was filed by Ye Guang, a Chongqing-based professional fraud buster.

Ye said Mengniu uses big characters on the front of the carton, proclaiming it is “Future Star Children’s Growth Milk”. However, on the side of the carton, the company says the product is “full-cream modified milk” in small characters.

The Chongqing Evening News reported that Ye’s allegation is based on China’s national standard on food safety, which stipulates that a “milk” product must be cow or sheep’s milk and must not contain anything else. But “modified milk” is allowed to contain water and food additives, with pure milk accounting for at least 80 per cent of the raw material.

“National packaging standards require that food manufacturers mark the product’s name prominently, and the name should represent the product’s true nature,” Ye was quoted as saying.

By mislabelling, Mengniu has infringed consumers’ right to know, he said.

What’s more, Ye said the company has mislabelled two other products that mainly target children. “They mark modified milk as ‘milk’, misleading parents who tend to regard the products as pure milk,” Ye said, adding that Mengniu is not the only culprit.

“It’s an unwritten understanding in the dairy industry that non-pure-milk products are sold as pure milk ones. That’s how enterprises save costs. The tactic looks after their huge economic interests.”

Mengniu said it began amending labels of some of its products last month, the Beijing Times reports.

“Our modified milk products have been marked in an explicit way on their packages,” it said in a statement. “With an attitude of being responsible to consumers, we started to improve modified milk’s packaging in July to represent themselves better as modified milk. For a short time, both new and old packaging will appear on the market.”

Ye said he plans to sue Yili, another mainland top dairy producer, on Tuesday.

Outspoken industry insider Wang Dingmian said dairy enterprises typically don’t obey labelling regulations on their products.

“Some enterprises are suspected of misleading consumers on a huge number of affected products,” Wang said.

The mainland’s dairy industry has been besieged by scandals in the past few years. The most serious one happened in 2008, when some enterprises added the chemical melamine to their baby formulas in an effort to artificially increase the protein level. Six children died from drinking the modified milk and 300,000 others fell ill, mostly with kidney conditions.

 

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