Sick Corny Joke of the Day:
1. Avoid “Fortified Milk”, because melamine maybe used to “fortify” the milk.
1. Avoid “Fortified Milk”, because melamine maybe used to “fortify” the milk.
One of the biggest news that is hogging the headlines lately is the Chinese Melamine Tainted Milk Scandal. Actually, it is one of the biggest news globally because of the far – ranging reach of the Chinese export machinery. A lot of milk and milk – derived products, confectionery, and milk – based beverages of both big name companies and little known producers are affected by this scandal causing panic among buyers and inducing an aversion to milk based products among consumers. And they are rightly to be afraid, for the melamine tainted milk has so far claimed the lives of 4 babies and sickened some 53,000 more in China. It has become a nightmare for parents with babies and toddlers, for these parents do not know what “safe” brand of milk to buy for their babies, i.e., safe as in a milk formula with no trace of melamine. Melamine based on my research is a nitrogen based macro – molecule with a formula of (NH2)n. It is a highly toxic substance in large dosage and is used as raw materials in the production of melamine resins plastic, which in turn is used in the manufacture of melamine wares (plates, cups, saucers). It is used in building construction as a super – plasticizer. And in the 1950s, melamine was also used as fertilizer due to its nitrogen based chemical structure as well as a non – protein nitrogen source for feed to cattle. However, melamine use in fertilizer and in feeds was largely discontinued (not totally, I surmised) by the 60s basically due to the fact that melamine doesn’t easily break down into its useful nitrogen form during the digestive process in cattle and during photosynthesis in plants. There is however no indication of toxicity being the reason for its discontinued used. It is very probable that the fact that melamine is used in cattle feeds may have prompted it’s use in “watering down” the milk. I mean melamine is readily available to dairy farmers who are using melamine as cattle feeds and because of its nitrogen structure, addition of melamine in milk would produce a high nitrogen yield during laboratory test suggesting that the milk is “rich” in protein, which is in fact the opposite since the “fortified” milk has already been watered down in the first place. Milk is watered down to artificially increase the output from the same inputs and therefore fatten the profitability of whoever is the culprit behind this despicable scheme. Anyway, aside from melamine, another compound used as non – protein nitrogen for cattle feeds is cyanuric acid. Now, when melamine and cyanuric acid enters the bloodstream, it reacts to form melamine cyanurate which is a crystalline compound and once these crystals entered the kidney, it damages the cells resulting into kidney malfunction, which ultimately led to the deaths of those poor babies. As previously mentioned, melamine is added solely to increase the profitability of the milk producers. And this illustrate a very disturbing point, that some people can be highly ingenious and would go great lengths and at the same time, being unscrupulous enough to do something such as lacing milk with melamine just to earn more. And this is the crux of the problem, the greed for more profit. Taken in this light, it’s not only the producers of melamine tainted milk that are “blinded” by this greed for more profit. There are others like them and melamine tainted milk is just simply the tip of the ice berg and one of the latest case in the long lists of tainted product cases (although not all of them are as toxic as the melamine laced milk, some may even be considered “safe”). Furthermore, this is not limited to food products only. As a businessman and an MBA graduate, I’m all for profit, the more, the merrier however, I and many business people like me draw the line between what’s honorable and what’s not. Being honorable means you don’t “cheat” your customer just to earn a few quick bucks, you earn it the hard way, which is providing what the customer paid for even if that means ultra thin profit. Unfortunately, there are a few of these unscrupulous business people who are not bound by this code of honor. A case in point would be adding extenders to food products. Adding extenders is a common practice among food processors. It is not only a fact but a way of life as this could reduce cost in a price competitive environment and help shore up profit. Even so, there is a limit for adding extenders and in most cases; it is likely in the vicinity of 5 – 20%. It is not surprising however to see that the most unscrupulous ones would use extenders up to say 60% or more to the extent that they practically substituted the product with something entirely different (adding melamine to milk actually started out as simply adding extenders to milk). Adding extenders is just but one of the tricks. Another trick usually resorted to by unscrupulous business people of whom they are in the minority, is size reduction. So instead of 1/8” thickness, these unscrupulous ones would offer products that are thinner say maybe 1/16” and still sell it as 1/8” thick but with huge discount from the regular price. As I mentioned before, a majority of businesses are honorable and we don’t cheat. We even balked at cheating because we care much for the welfare of our customers and that our ethical beliefs prevented us from committing such a grave act. As such, we couldn’t really imagine that somebody could actually do that or gone to that great length but apparently, we are wrong in our assumption. As a result, we are usually caught off guard by the actions of these unscrupulous business people especially since these very same people are engaged in predatory selling, which drive some of the honorable ones out of business. In short, honorable business people are also victims, not just the buyers. I remember this lesson I had in business school. It’s about a firm’s competitive advantage. According to my professor, competitive advantage is that firm’s capability, or organizational ability, or assets that help provide an edge to a company versus other competing firms in attracting customers in the market. So if a company could produce their goods more efficiently than others and maintain superior quality as well and they are able to parlay such efficiency into a reduced price for the consumer, it is only but natural for such a company to attract a great deal of buyers from the market and with the expanding revenues as a result, such company would not only stay afloat but would grow substantially as well. Conversely, a firm who fails to deliver what the consumer want because it lacks the skills, the abilities, the capabilities, and the material resources to do so, it would eventually fail because it wouldn’t be able to attract any would – be buyers from the market. That is what the theory says. Reality however has a different take and this is what they didn’t teach us at business school; that unethical practices and unscrupulous attitudes can be and has proven to be a source of competitive advantage as well. If one doesn’t play fair, one always have an advantage no matter what. Well, one could always argue that customers are not stupid and that sooner or later, they would have discovered the hoax and drive these unscrupulous businesses out of business. Though that is true but the problem is that by the time, these unscrupulous businesses went bankrupt, the damage is already done for some of the “honorable” businesses would not be around by then as the latter were “priced out of the market” by these unscrupulous firms in the first place. So what then? What are we going to do? Well, the most effective solution to punish these unscrupulous businesses is for the buyer to exercise vigilance. Remember, the ultimate decider in the marketplace is not the competing firms nor the government regulators but the consumers and only you, the consumers. If the consumers demanded only the best quality before price, I don’t see how these unscrupulous businesses would succeed in the first place. Remember, the customer is always right.