Swiss food giant Nestle assured consumers that batches of infant formula distributed by its Shanghai branch, which quality authorities found to be substandard, pose no health risk.
Two batches of Alfare, a baby formula for special medical purposes that is imported from the Netherlands, were flagged on July 18 after tests showed they had about 35 percent less selenium than was stated on the label. Selenium is a common ingredient in vitamins and dietary supplements.
The 400-gram sample cans were purchased from two stores in Shenyang, Liaoning province and inspected by the China Food and Drug Administration along with 158 other products from nine companies.
The Shanghai FDA said almost all of the 20,178 cans of infant formula from the two Alfare batches had been sold, but 135 had been recalled as of Tuesday.
Nestle’s Shanghai distribution base is now under investigation to determine whether the substandard product resulted from a onetime mistake or a systemic failure, according to city authorities.
On Wednesday, Nestle issued a statement saying it had “acted immediately on the CFDA’s request to withdraw the affected batches”, and that internal and thirdparty testing had shown that no other batches were affected.
“The consumption of these two batches does not pose any health risks,” the company said. “There is no safety implication. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this case has caused.”
According to the CFDA report, tests found the selenium content in one batch of Alfare was 0.43 micrograms per 100 kiloJoules, while the other had 0.46 mcg per 100 kJ. Both amounts were lower than the 0.70 mcg per 100 kJ stipulated on the label.
Infant food products for special medical purposes are formulated for infants who suffer from gastrointestinal dysfunction or food allergies, or if their mothers don’t have enough breast milk. The market for such products has grown rapidly in recent years, said Wang Dingmian, former deputy director of the Guangzhou Dairy Industry Management Office.
“Although the difference in the amount of the trace elements can be trivial, the companies should be very strict with the standards, as these babies are special and it can be their only food before they are 6 months old,” he said.
Consumers asked the company to explain and to provide compensation.
“The can of infant formula costs around 350 yuan ($51.80), much more expensive than ordinary products,” said Li Aiwei, a 33-year-old mother in Shanghai.
“As an industry behemoth, Nestle is cheating consumers since the actual amount is only two-thirds of its label declaration, which is no different from questionable lesser brands,” she said.
Wang Zhuoqiong in Beijing contributed to this story.
Source: China Daily