IN TAINTED NESTLÉ FORMULA SCANDAL
discovery of contamination in various Nestlé baby food brands has caused a
huge stir in Europe. Millions of litres of formula have been pulled from the
shelves and a top official in the Italian government has threatened legal
action against the corporation’s CEO. It is now clear that the contamination
was caused by IsopropilThioxanthone (ITX), a fixative of printing ink used
on liquid milk cartons (produced by TetraPack, a large company that serves
many other food companies for different kinds of foods and beverages). It is
also apparent that Nestlé has been less than responsible is recalling
potentially contaminated baby formula, prompting government intervention and
seizures of the product. This episode demonstrates yet again Nestlé’s
willingness to preserve its own profits at the expense of infant health, and
the inherent dangers presented by mass-produced baby food.
July 2005: First tests of Nestlé
ready-to-feed liquid formula in the Marche region of Italy show
contamination by ITX. Further tests were ordered on other Nestlé products:
Nidina 1 for infants, Nidina 2 for babies 6 to 12 months, Latte Mio and Mio
Cereali for children 1 to 3 years.
September 2, 2005: Official
results released confirming contamination were sent to the Italian Ministry
of Health, but were not publicised.
September 8, 2005: The EU is alerted of ITX seepage in a packet made in
September 2005: SPAIN: Nestlé carries out a recall of milks from its
factory in Northern Asturias region, but the same products in
Italy, France, and Portugal
remain on the shelves.
October 2005: Italy sends an alert to the EU authorities.
November 9, 2005: Italian authorities declare Nestlé’s Nidina and Mio milks
“unfit for human use” and seize 2 million litres of the products. The
seizure was not publicised.
November 15, 2005: Nestlé starts recalling further quantities of the same
products. This recall was also not publicised.
November 22, 2005: Following further laboratory tests, products with expiry
dates of September 2006 are recalled following an Italian court order, and
30 million litres are seized. It's only at this point that the news begins
to appear in Italian (and foreign) media.
November 23, 2005: A full page announcement by Nestlé in main Italian
newspapers says the company has taken decision to " recall the products
autonomously" as "a measure of exceptional (extreme) precaution towards
consumers". While Nestlé refers to a voluntary “recall” authorities call it
a “seizure” or “confiscation.”
November 23, 2005: The press reports Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck as saying
there was an agreement made in the summer with Italian Health Minister
Storace and the EU to continue selling the tainted milk and progressively
discard and replace it with uncontamined products.
November 24, 2005: Minister Storace denies any agreement to get rid of
contaminated products and threatens Brabeck with a lawsuit for false
November 25, 2005: Brabeck sends a letter to Minister Storace apologizing
for a “memory lapse.”
November 25 2005: Storace says he will press ahead with a lawsuit against
Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck.
30 November, 2005: A consumer association, Altroconsumo, independently tests
30 other products (yoghurts, fruit juices etc) packed in TetraPack cartons;
6 of them test positive for ITX.
1 December, 2005: Other milks (Parmalat, Granarolo, Newlat; all for the
general population) are withdrawn for the same problem everywhere in Italy.
Italian police investigate the assumed agreement between Nestlé and the
Italian Minister Storace. The Police Office of Ascolo Piceno is
investigating 7 people form Nestlé and Tetrapack.
Italy reports "migration of isopropyl thioxanthone from packaging of milk
for babies" to the EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).
Evidently the contamination is still not under control.
It is now clear that the problem was caused by TetraPack. But why did Nestlè,
the first company that had its product tested, not act
transparently? and why did the Ministry of Health and the EU authorities not
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