The Ministry of Commerce’s General Department of Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Repression will send a case involving the parents of 24 infants who were allegedly affected by consuming the milk powder products of Nutrilatt Master LM Co, Ltd to court on November 14.
The two parties failed to settle out of court after the department gave them a month to negotiate a compensation package.
The general department’s director-general Phan Oun told The Post that the negotiation started from October 6.
“In this case, we facilitated the process of compensation negotiation in accordance with civil procedure in advance ... But there was too much of a difference between the demands of the plaintiffs and what the company was willing to pay.
“Now the procedure for settling out of court is over, so we have to refer this case to court. But even if the parties agree on civil compensation, this is still treated as a criminal case,” he said.
Chan Phalkun, the mother of an infant affected by Nutrilatt’s products, said the company did not contact a majority of the 24 families filing the lawsuit.
“The company contacted two families, one of whom sued for $70,000 and the other for more than $70,000. After the company talked with the two families, it stopped negotiating with other parents. The firm argues that it can no longer negotiate with the parents and they can only provide $1,000 per family,” she said.
Phalkun said the $1,000 offer was unacceptable. Nutrilatt, she said, had argued that it had settled with other parents not listed in the lawsuit for only between $500 and $1,000 in compensation.
“The weight of infants and the sicknesses they contracted after consuming the milk powder are different so the company must consider each case. The $1,000 offer is too small a sum,” she said.
Six batch numbers – 487, 488, 536, 537, 538, 539 – of the product were believed to cause anaemia and iron deficiencies in infants.
After receiving the families’ complaints on August 26, the department presented the results of an analysis of the product, which showed lower than advertised iron content. The milk powder was tested by independent and internationally accredited laboratory Eurofins Food Testing Singapore PTE Ltd. The iron levels were also lower than the Codex International Standard.
Nutrilatt could not be reached for comment on November 8.
On September 16, the company issued a public apology, saying it was also a victim because of a lack of quality control resources.