Imported baby formula brand taken off shelves

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Hero Nutradefense infant formula was ordered off Shanghai shelves yesterday after reports it had been mixed with expired milk powder and that expiry dates had been altered.


Hero Nutradefense infant formula [file photo] 

The Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau told Xile Meisu Co, the Swiss-based Hero Group's office in the city, to remove it from city stores. The bureau said about 1,300 kilograms of the formula had been removed as of 4pm yesterday, but declined to name the stores and supermarkets involved.

Xile Lier, Hero Group's sole authorized China dealer based in Suzhou in neighboring Jiangsu Province, was busted by Suzhou's quality watchdog in November for blending expired milk powder and an unknown milk source into imported formula, changing production and expiry dates, repackaging them and re-labeling formula for older babies as more expensive milk for younger children, according to a CCTV report yesterday.

The baby formula was marked "100 percent imported dairy source from the Netherlands."

More than 520,000 packs and 38,868 cans worth 50 million yuan (US$8 million) were confiscated by Suzhou police in November, enough to feed about 12,400 children for six months, CCTV said.

Authorities in Suzhou said they shut down production lines at the firm in November following a whistleblower's report.

However, products sold under the Hero Nutradefense label were still widely sold nationwide. Suzhou's quality watchdog hadn't ordered a recall or publicized the quality problems, CCTV said.

At an emergency press conference last night, Suzhou authorities said Mou Jun, head of Xile Lier, had been detained by police.

They said the company was involved in importing baby formula from Europe that had not acquired the necessary import certificates.

The Hero Group said last night that it had always maintained the highest standards of quality and safety. It launched Nutradefense in China in 2012 and all Hero Nutradefense sold in China was produced exclusively in the Netherlands.

It said allegations that a sub-distributor in China had been involved in the illegal repackaging of Nutradefense had been investigated by the Suzhou authorities and dealt with appropriately.

The group had not detected any problems concerning the quality and safety of its products on the Chinese market and would continue to closely monitor its sub-distributors to ensure the integrity of Hero products in China, it said.

On online retailer Tmall, 3,629 cans of Hero Nutradefense baby formula for children between one and three years old had been sold yesterday by noon at one of its online stores.

But Tmall soon put Xile Lier's outlets offline, and promised refunds. Similar measures were taken by

Gu Zhenhua, vice director of the Shanghai Food Safety Office, said city authorities had not received any reports about substandard baby formula before the CCTV expose.

"I will ask others to buy baby formula directly from overseas, but I am still not sure whether the products are safe or not, and I really worry about it," said Mary Wang, a Shanghai mother with a seven-month-old baby.

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