China’s Dairy Farmers say they are also victims
As China's milk scandal just keeps getting worse, Chinese dairy farmers are claiming that they are also victims in this case.
Farmers are accused of meddling with their milk products for profit, in what is now China's worst food safety crisis for decades. But farmers are saying that they didn't do anything to cause four deaths, 53,000 babies getting sick, and an international recall of dairy products.
“I’m desperate,” said Jie Cun’ai, 66, who with his son cares for 56 cows. “I’m one of the biggest losers in this village. The provincial television station says our government will take care of us, that they won’t let us kill our cows or dump our milk. But they are lying. For 10 days, we’ve been dumping our milk.”
Indeed, few in China or abroad will buy milk, infant formula or other dairy products since tests have found that more than 20 companies were selling products contaminated with an industrial chemical, melamine, which can cause kidney failure or kidney stones.
The dairy farming villages around Shijiazhuang came under sharp scrutiny last month after investigators arrested dozens of farmers and milk station operators for spiking milk with melamine, which if blended into food can artificially inflate protein readings, helping it pass quality tests.
But dairy farmers here insist that they never used melamine, and that the real culprits are dairy companies and the milking stations that they operate. They also complain that they have been squeezed by the price controls on food that went into effect last year, which may have created incentives among some farmers and big companies to dilute milk and use chemical substitutes.
Apparently bribery is common at milking farms, and loopholes and corruption in the system have been found.
The government tried to avoid the crisis in September by raiding dairy farms and vowing to overhaul the huge dairy industry.
The farmers say they have no way to aggregate their milk supplies, as their cows are milked by machine and they don't have any more to do with the milk after that.
Adulterating milk, of course, is hardly unknown in China. For years, experts say rice porridge, starch and other chemicals have been used to doctor diluted milk to earn extra profits. In 2004, at least 14 children died in a poor area of Anhui Province after consuming what the government later determined was a fake baby formula. The case shocked the nation and led to government calls for sweeping reform.
Dairy experts, however, say regulations still have not caught up with industry con men.
The milk scandal may be the catalyst that finally gets the government to address the problem properly.
Antibiotic residue has also been found in milking stations in Nantongyi. Dairy farmers there are facing bankruptcy and the governmnet is fearing unrest there.
It remains to be seen what will come out of this.