December 15, 2005

 

DETAILS EMERGE IN TAINTED NESTLÉ FORMULA SCANDAL

 

The 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 the packaging company Tetra Pak. It is also apparent that Nestlé has been less than responsible in recalling potentially contaminated baby formula, prompting government intervention and seizures of the products. 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.

 

The following is a timeline of events up to this point:  

 

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 Spain.
 
September 2005: Nestlé carries out a recall of milks from its factory in the Northern Asturias region of Spain, 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 information.

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.

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 act immediately?


 **Many thanks to Andriano Catteo of IBFAN in Italy**

 

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