Abbott may take legal action against 'misleading' China claims

SINGAPORE - Following a series of accusations against the company that its infant formula powders failed to meet China's national safety standards, Abbott Laboratories said the report in question is misleading and "deliberately positioned to damage (Abbott's) reputation".

Last week, Hong-Kong based research house CER Research released a report on their findings from a test of six infant formula powders sold in the Chinese market.

The release of the report coincided with a recent claim by a man from Hangzhou who said he found a condom in a container of Abbott milk formula when he was feeding his 14-month-old daughter.

CER said it sent samples of six infant formula products bought in Shanghai and Hong Kong to a professional food testing laboratory in Germany.

According to the report results, the Abbott product "tested the worst of the six samples provided, and well below accepted international and even China standards," said CER Research CEO, Graham Earnshaw.

China requires infant formula to have a minimum whey to casein protein ratio of at least 60 per cent, which the product did not meet.

High intake of casein protein is known to cause intestinal bleeding, malnutrition, diarrhea and kidney stress in infants, the report said.

The tests also claimed the product's level of denaturation was "extremely high", and said Abbott "has a problem in terms of quality control in the China market."

However, Abbott is disputing these claims, saying first of all, the accusations circulating in the Chinese press about the condom are completely unfounded and false.

As for the report, Abbott said they fully refute any allegation of safety or quality contained in the report, as the product used in the report was not produced for the Chinese market and not sold in China.

The company explained that specifications for infant formula vary from market to market, and Abbott manufactures its products "to meet or exceed the standards for healthy and safe infant growth set in each country."

Therefore, it inevitably did not meet China's requirements, the company said.

In addition, the products sold in China underwent vigorous testing to meet Chinese Food and Safety National regulation, with every batch cleared by all government tests with certification.

Thus Abbott is certain their products are safe, the company stressed in a statement to the press.

Abbott also caste doubt on the "scientific methodology, objectivity and balance" of the report.

Abbott alleged that the report is highly questionable, having not mentioned any of the other five milk powder manufacturers it tested, nor the respective results.

The report also did not mention who commissioned the report.

More importantly, Abbott pointed out that CER failed to mention what testing methods were used to come to such conclusions.

Abbott expressed concern that the report was put out there to deliberately damage their reputation, and said that they will take legal action if required.

yamadak@sph.com.sg

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