The report entitled, ‘Abbott Laboratories Similac Stage 1; A first step towards malnutrition’, caused a stir last month suggesting Abbott’s product failed to reach China’s safety standards, testing the worst among six brands.
Abbott Laboratories was quick to refute the “misleading” report it said was set up to deliberately damage its reputation. It threatened legal action in a series of letters submitted by Chinese lawyers representing the US-headquartered infant formula giant.
Court action followed in Hong Kong on April 5, an Abbott spokesperson told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“We will not allow irresponsible actions such as this report, which was not based on fact or science, to threaten the trust we have with our customers and therefore we are taking all necessary legal action available to us,” Abbott said.
The court “entered an order formalising CER’s agreement to immediately remove the damaging and misleading report on Abbott’s infant formula product, and related statements, from their websites,” it detailed.
The order has the effect of an injunction granted by the court, and any breach could put CER in contempt of court.
“CER has also undertaken not to make further statements about the report,” the company added.
Independent tests conducted
This court order comes at the same time an internationally recognised lab; Covance – an independent, international, ISO accredited facility – confirmed that Abbott’s Similac meets China’s national food and safety standards, it said.
The product tested was the China product, the Abbott spokesperson said, “the CER report tested the Hong Kong product but they are different formulations.”
This was a concern raised early on – that CER had tested Abbott’s Hong Kong product against Chinese standards, problematic as Hong Kong operates under separate safety standards for food; very similar to international standards, according to Jacob Jiang of China Market Research (CMR).
Results from the new independent testing initiated by Abbott in the wake of CER’s report findings found that the infant formula product fully meets the whey protein level set in the Chinese standards, the company said, and “these results add science-based evidence to support Abbott’s high quality product.”
Abbott noted that all of its products meet the nutrient and safety requirements established by regulatory bodies in each country around the world.
‘Pleased’ to prove safety
“Abbott is pleased that its prompt action taken in the Hong Kong courts has ensured that parents of babies in China have access to factual information about its infant formula…Abbott values the health and well-being of its customers. There’s nothing more important to us than the quality and safety of our products,” the infant formula giant said.
“Parents can be confident that Similac available in China continues to be the highest quality for their babies,” it noted.