Tuesday, September 23, 2008

23rd September

There are thirteen thousand babies in hospital in China who are ill because they have been given tainted baby milk. Another forty thousand have had to be treated.

These figures are probably an under-estimate. Authorities in the know kept silent about the scandal for at least a month: they did not want details leaking out during the Olympics.

It has happened because of a fairly sophisticated scam. Milk processing firms have been adding a chemical called melamine to the milk. This has the effect of making the milk appear to have more protein than it actually has. So it's possible for substandard milk, or milk that has been watered down, to pass quality control tests.

This, clearly, increases the producers' profiy margins.

But it also severely damages the kidneys of the babies who drink it.

Whoever did this obviously had a sophisticated knowledge of food science.

But what they lacked was any moral sense.

In that way, the scandal mirrors so many other scientific dilemmas world wide.

But what I have difficulty imagining is the mentality of the people who adulterated the milk for their own gain. Did they know how damaging it would be for the babies?

Did they try to find out?

How could they do this?

And, perhaps most importantly: what kind of society is it that produces people who are prepared to act with such callous disregard for human life?

I thought I was used to such things, but this profoundly disturbs me.


Hi Jo,

It's at times like these you really need a production of All My Sons.

I should lend you my copy of "Bending the Rules: Morality in the modern world from relationships to politics and war" by Robert A Hinde.

It's interesting for many reasons, one being its analysis of how we allow morality in business to differ from morality at home.

Mark F
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