Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bad Day for Bunnies

Lately the papers are just full of bad news. So far, I’ve been considering myself lucky. Lehman Brothers collapsed, but I didn’t have any money invested in them. WaMu folded up, but that wasn’t my bank. There was a devastating hurricane in Texas, but, for now at least, California is not falling into the sea.

Finally, though, something has hit home with me: They’re recalling my beloved White Rabbit candy. Apparently White Rabbits in California are testing high for melamine. This shouldn’t be surprising, because they are, after all, a Chinese candy made primarily from milk, but somehow I’m still shocked. And vaguely worried—I eat a lot of those things. Probably not enough to give myself a kidney stone, but they are made from condensed milk.

I never thought I’d have anything in common with infants in China, but the world turns out to be smaller and stranger then I could ever imagine.


Anonymous said...

From Pipi: There was an article today about the White Rabbit scandal in the Wall Street Journal:


The text is below, but doesn't include some images from the paper which include interesting trivia such as the fact that White Rabbit was originally called "Mickey Mouse Milk Candy".

OCTOBER 10, 2008 Milk Scandal Taints China's Cherished White Rabbit Candy Will Be Relaunched in New Packaging as Manufacturer Tries to Reassure Consumers That It's Free of Contaminants

BEIJING -- China's dairy crisis is threatening to kill off one of the country's most beloved brands: White Rabbit Creamy Candy.

Photo Caption:
U.S. President Richard Nixon, left, in a 1972 Beijing visit, shares a toast with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, right, who also gave Mr. Nixon White Rabbit candy as a gift.

Generations of Chinese have eaten the chewy, milk-based candy that comes wrapped in edible rice paper that has a cartoon of a smiling rabbit on it. When U.S. President Richard Nixon made his landmark visit to Beijing in 1972, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai presented him with the candy, which was said to be the premier's favorite sweet.
One selling point was its creamy content; when milk was a rarity in China a generation ago, seven of the small nougat-like rectangles were said to equal a cup of milk. That milky association turned disastrous on Sept. 11, when news broke of babies getting sick from drinking melamine-laced formula powder. Milk products were suddenly being pulled from shelves. (Chinese health authorities said Thursday nearly 47,000 children have been hospitalized for kidney stones due to melamine consumption, triple the earlier count of 14,500.)

White Rabbit was hit hard by the crisis, caught in a series of embarrassing recalls from Finland to Wisconsin, and, of course, in China. Unable to implement a fast damage-control plan, the state-controlled company that makes White Rabbit has become emblematic of how scores of famous old brands in China are facing tough times in a global world.

Associated Press"I think this is a brand that is very well-known and probably has a lot of emotional nostalgic fondness for many people," says Tom Doctoroff, the North Asia chief executive of WPP Group's JWT ad agency.

China has hundreds of similar old brands, some several centuries old. In 2006, the Ministry of Commerce named 434 of them "laozihao," or time-honored labels, giving them some degree of government support. Before the milk crisis, White Rabbit was doing fairly well for a laozihao. Market-research companies show that its market share was slipping in the face of foreign competition, but it was still sold in more than 50 countries and regions.

The first White Rabbit candy was rolled out in 1943. After the communist takeover in 1949, it was nationalized and now is owned by Shanghai Guan Sheng Yuan Food Ltd. The company stopped production last month. Singapore, Australia and Qatar were among those that pulled White Rabbit. U.S. distributor Queensway Foods Company Inc. of Burlingame, Calif., recalled the product in nine states, including California, Texas and Hawaii.

The company has been largely passive in the face of the catastrophe. Company officials refused to answer detailed questions or make management available for interviews.
Company spokeswoman Wang Yiyi said factories have restarted but the company hasn't worked out a marketing strategy beyond new packaging assuring consumers that it is contaminant free. "First, we want to put our products back on the shelves," Ms. Wang said. "Then, we will think about promotional activities."

The company's parent is heavily involved in the scandal. Guan Sheng Yuan is owned by Bright Dairy & Food Co. Ltd., part of state-owned food conglomerate Bright Food Group Co. The group is one of more than 20 milk producers the government blamed for tainting milk products with melamine, an industrial chemical that can induce kidney stones, especially in children, if consumed in large quantities after a prolonged period. Ms. Wang confirmed that Guan Sheng Yuan gets some of its milk from its parent, Bright Dairy, but she said the new supplies are safe.

—Bai Lin in Shanghai and Kersten Zhang and Sue Feng in Beijing contributed to this article.Write to Jason Leow at jason.leow@wsj.com and Loretta Chao at loretta.chao@wsj.com

Nicole said...

Thanks for the good news, my muse!