HUMAN greed seems to have no bounds. Monster manufacturers have now moved from counterfeit cigarettes to fake infant formula. Because, there is big money in it. To be exact, RM200 a packet. Deaths of infants do not seem to concern these merchants of death. The nightmare began when parents complained of their baby’s violent vomiting after consuming the fake infant formula to the Johor director of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry. The officers seized 210 boxes of suspected fake baby milk powder from five locations across the state. That is not the end of the story. The invoices from the supplier were fake, too. Now the hunt is on for other merchants and the manufacturer of the fake milk.
Mead Johnson, whose product has been affected by the fake trade, has come forward with helpful tips for parents to tell the real from the fake. We live in terrible times, with monsters of all manner and shape prowling among us. Greedy criminals want our money at all costs. They do not care if their actions cause injuries or death. Even infant deaths are no bar. According to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development figures last year, global trade in fake goods was worth nearly half a trillion US dollars (RM2 trillion) a year. It appears that baby milk producers have been complaining about the fake formulas since August. And, if this is true, it is a very long four months given that the lives of infants are at stake. It is also not unreasonable for parents to ask why the milk producers did not alert them earlier to help identify the real from the fake. It is not unreasonable, too, for parents to ask why the ministry took so long to seize the goods. Many parents have taken to social media to vent their anger and frustration. It is only understandable because this is a case of alarming seriousness. Even if deaths do not result by consuming the fake infant formula, serious damage to the health of babies can occur. While there is not much information on the kind of chemicals the fake infant formula contains, many will remember with dread the July 2008 milk scandal in China. The Chinese milk scandal involved the adulteration of infant formula with melamine and other chemicals. One report stated that 300,000 infants fell victim to the adulteration, with six dying from kidney damage. An estimated 54,000 babies were hospitalised.
In this age of monsters, we need to pay great attention to all aspects of food safety. We cannot, of course, leave this process to the manufacturers alone because, as is proven in this case, the process chain can be interfered with. Government agencies, such as the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry, must maintain their vigilance through enforcement and other means of governance. Lives are too precious to be left to last-minute protective actions. The law, too, must come down hard on counterfeit criminals. It must drive home the point that crime does not pay, and infant crime never pays.