Friday, September 19, 2008


In an earlier publication, the tragedy of melamine tainted milk in China was reported with some critical comments on that country's system of governance. It was not known at that time how grave the situation was and the whole episode was considered as a minor one with limited impact locally. Now that the full dimension of the tragedy is unfolding, the earlier comments in this blog is not considered in good taste though the substance of the critique does not change.
In the latest twist to the melamine tainted milk tragedy, four children are reported to have died already and more than 8000 children are struggling in various hospitals with heavy kidney damage. More than 60 dairy plants have been closed and mothers are running around looking for milk to feed their children. The Chairperson of the Sanlu Group Company might have been fired and many heads will roll from the 22 companies involved in this mishap but will it revive the life of those already died or repair the damage inflicted on others?. People who supplied the tainted milk have been apprehended and the authorities claim that they have confessed to the heinous crime. The ostensible reason has been cited as severe financial losses suffered by them on earlier occasion in their milk business which were sought to be recovered through this devious means. It is moot point whether the culprits were aware of the lethal consequences of mixing melamine or it is just ignorance that made them do what is reprehensible.  
A larger question that looms against this unfortunate accident is whether the consequences will be confined to within the borders of that country or it is going to affect other countries also. The reported export of the contaminated milk powder to poor countries like Bangladesh, Burundi, Gabon, Myanmar and Yemen, with practically no worth while safety vigilance systems, must be viewed with alarm. It is a lesson for countries like India not to lower the guard when it comes to import of foods from any outside source and no special consideration needs to be shown to exempt such imports from domestic food laws. WTO must step in to tackle this problem by helping poorer countries to put in place strong safety monitoring systems and prevent such avoidable tragedies.   

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