Danone's Nutricia accused of bribing China doctors: Media

BEIJING - French conglomerate Danone faced fresh bribery accusations in China on Wednesday, made by a newspaper against its healthcare subsidiary Nutricia, as authorities investigate corruption among drug and dairy firms.

Nutricia "provided improper benefits on a large scale to more than 100 doctors at 14 hospitals in Beijing in order to spur medicine sales", the 21st Century Business Herald said, citing evidence it said was supplied by an unidentified hospital intern.

The bribes included a total of 300,000 yuan (US$49,000) to dozens of doctors at two hospitals, the report said.

They also included receipts that could be submitted for reimbursement and group activities like strawberry-picking, it said, citing evidence from 2010 until last year.

State media last week accused another Danone subsidiary, the baby formula maker Dumex, of bribing Chinese hospital officials with to 10,000 yuan each to give its products to newborns.

Danone pledged at the time to investigate the matter. Its China office could not immediately be reached for comment about the Nutricia accusations.

Authorities last month launched a three-month probe into a variety of industries for unfair competition, following a series of scandals and arrests.

Police have detained at least 20 employees of British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline since July.

Beijing officials are investigating French firm Sanofi over US$280,000 in alleged bribes to doctors, state media has reported.

In a price-fixing probe of milk formula manufacturers, authorities in August fined six companies including Dumex more than US$100 million altogether.

Imported baby formula is popular with Chinese families following a series of food scandals, notably in 2008 when six babies died from drinking milk tainted with the chemical melamine.