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Chinese baby milk company partners with French dairy firms to polish its image

Biostime: Chinese baby milk company
Biostime: Chinese baby milk company DR

A Chinese dairy firm, whose tainted powder milk scandal in 2008 left six dead and more than 300,000 sick, is trying to partner-up with French dairies in an attempt to polish their image, but some fear this could backfire for France.

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 The Chinese firm Biostime proudly flaunts its close ties to two dairy companies in France and one in Denmark as proof that its products are now safe.

Though experts say the French reputation for quality in food could be at stake if goods are tampered with in China.

They warn also that French dairy farmers could be financially squeezed by the new investors.

So far, Biostime has partnered with France’s Laiterie de Montaigu and the Isigny Saint-Mère company as well as the Danish group Arla.

The agreement with Isigny is seen as the more amibitous one, given that Biostime is investing 20 million euros to set up a new production site in Normandy that will double baby milk production there.

In total, the project will cost 50 million euros and in return, Isigny must keep two-thirds of its production for China and one place for Biostime on its 15-member board.

“We went with Biostime, a company that stresses the origin of its milk, so we are not afraid that it will alter the product in China” said Valérie Mariaud, the marketing head of Isigny’s baby milk.

A Western diplomatic source in Beijing said the move for forging relations with foreign firms in Europe and also New Zealand were prompted by fears of a local shortage of baby milk.

The need for baby milk is urgent in China. According to the United Nations child agency UNICEF, only 28 percent of Chinese mothers breastfeed for the first six months, a figure that drops in urban areas.

The global average is at 40 percent.

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