Unintended consequences: Sanlu poisoned milk

The Sanlu poisoned milk saga was extremely sad, no-one likes to hear of deaths caused by products.

Beyond the tragic deaths, the saga was expected to hurt Fonterra heavily – they had a large stake in Sanlu, and it was expected to sully their reputation in China.  However, this wasn’t the case.

After the crisis became public in September, Chinese dairy companies started buying milk from overseas rather than sourcing it locally, he said.

That was the largest of three drivers of the increase in Asian revenues.

It appears that the Chinese public still trusted Fonterra – but did not trust domestically made milk at all.  As a result, Fonterra ended up with a huge boost to sales.  A surprising result.

8 replies
  1. Jim Donovan
    Jim Donovan says:

    I’m not in the least surprised. There was never any suggestion that Fonterra was to blame for the contamination, and it was through Fonterra’s contacts with the NZ govt that the issue was raised and became public. While there was a serious risk that Fonterra’s name could have been tainted, this was outweighed by the ethical imperative to not become part of the cover-up, and there was potential reputational gain from being the whistle blower. This news also demonstrates that despite the disaster, Fonterra and other international brands are substantially more trusted than local ones. I endorse Fonterra’s intention to remain active in China; in the end it will be stronger than ever in that market.

  2. Kimble
    Kimble says:

    Unfortunately, JD, there are many people in NZ who find sick pleasure in laying the blame for the poisoning squarely on the Fonterra chiefs.

    They will probably turn up here eventually and spout some nonsense about an information pack giving the chinese perpetrators the Kiwi green light to ignore safety standards. These people are lunatics and I hope this comment will see them off when they do arrive.

  3. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:

    @Jim Donovan

    Indeed. After seeing what our media did with it though – I feared that we were being blamed for it in China.

    I seem to remember that after the incident there was a poll in China asking about safe destinations for food imports, and we were still very high. I guess the Chinese consumer could see the difference – which is nice.

  4. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:


    Anyone who has worked in a large organisation – or seen one – would surely realise that blaming the Fonterra Chiefs for this sort of thing is ridiculous!

  5. Kimble
    Kimble says:


    You would think so, but the people that are intent on slandering the Fonterra heads are most often anti-capitalists, communists, and similar moonbats.

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