Monday, October 06, 2008

Milking the profits

As we all know, thousands of Chinese children have fallen seriously ill, while four have died, from ingesting dairy products laced with melamine, an industrial chemical.

Chinese authorities are apparently falling over themselves to be seen to be doing something:

Chinese police have detained six people suspected of producing and selling melamine, the chemical at the center of the country’s scandal over tainted dairy products, the official Xinhua news agency said...

The arrests follow the detention last week of 22 people in Hebei province suspected of being involved in a network there for producing melamine and selling it on to milk farms and purchasing stations.

But, while these suppliers may have had some idea of how the chemical was going to be used by their customers, surely the real culpability in this appalling scandal lies elsewhere.

And surely it shouldn’t be too difficult to identify those real culprits. They will be executive decision makers in, for instance, the Yili and Mengniu dairy companies, who were responsible for the conscious decision to actually water down the milk and spike it with melamine to artificially increase the apparent protein content of their product.

It’s not as if any of that could have happened by accident or even inadvertently. This can only have been a conscious choice to milk a further few lousy percentage points on their margins.

Xinhua did not say whether the suspects were connected to either of the firms. It cited Tian Min, vice secretary general of the municipal government, as saying the results of the investigation would probably be released in four to five days.

We may hopefully look forward to seeing the Chinese people crucify (figuratively speaking) those responsible, even if they likely will have to prod the authorities along into taking real action.

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