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Hero's ex-chief admits tainting baby formula

By Hu Min   (Shanghai Daily)

08:59, April 01, 2013

The former head of Hero Group's authorized China distributor yesterday admitted the company repackaged Hero Nutradefense infant formula, mixed various milk sources with the imported formula, and smuggled baby formula from Europe without the necessary import certificates.

Mou Jun, former head of Xile Lier, which is Hero Group's partner in China, said the company started changing production dates and smuggling baby formula from Europe in February last year, China Central Television reported. The company smuggled baby formula without import certificates because Hero Nutradefense products were very popular in China and demand outstripped supply, Mou said.

The baby formula was marked "100 percent imported dairy from the Netherlands."

Mou said the production batch numbers of the smuggled baby formula were altered.

In Hero Group's latest statement, it said the company learned in December that Suzhou authorities had begun an investigation into alleged illegal repackaging by Xile Lier.

"The incident in Suzhou was, according to our information, centered around the wrongdoing of one individual, and the person involved was immediately replaced and stricter screening has been applied by our distributor," the company said in the statement.

The Swiss-based consumer goods giant said it is exploring how to better monitor its sub-distributors to ensure the integrity of all Hero products sold in China.

Hero Group said it is working with the relevant authorities, but it has received no information which would require further action on its part.

The imported baby formula scandal was uncovered by CCTV last Thursday. In the report, CCTV said Xile Lier was busted by Suzhou's quality watchdog in November for blending expired milk powder and an unknown milk source into imported formula, changing production and expiration dates, repackaging them and re-labeling formula for older babies as more expensive milk for younger children.

However, products sold under the Hero Nutradefense label were still widely available nationwide as Suzhou officials hadn't ordered a recall or publicized the problem.

Authorities in Shanghai ordered removal of the products from store shelves on Thursday following the CCTV report.

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