Dumex mother-and-baby health programme suspended

Dumex mother-and-baby health programme suspended

Management within Danone's Dumex China business have accepted "full accountability" for a scandal involving bribes paid to hospital staff in return for the promotion of infant formula.

Dumex told just-food today (15 October) it was taking disciplinary action in response to the scandal, including the appointment of new management where appropriate.

"The Dumex China management team accepts full accountability for these lapses: disciplinary actions will be taken according to the relevant company regulations including appointing new management personnel to deal with relevant issues," the spokesperson said.

Accusations of corrupt practices first emerged last month, when a report by China Central Television alleged Danone employees paid medical staff at a hospital in Tianjin to promote Dumex products to the parents of newborn children. The company immediately launched an internal investigation into the charges, which has now been "substantially completed".

Details of the management shake-up have not been revealed. However, the company said that the incident related to management of its mother-and-child health education programme.

"The reports were found to be related to a company-sponsored programme supporting mother-and-child health education... However, even though the programme is in good condition, it has been found that the programme was not appropriately managed in some cases. This resulted in some practices that contradicted the purpose of the program, which violated company-wide policies. The company has expressed its deep regret for these shortcomings," the spokesperson said. "Dumex has strict rules and takes all incidents of non-compliance very seriously."

The group's health education programme has been suspended in all regions of China and Danone is introducing "mandatory training" in marketing "responsibility" to all employees to ensure regulatory compliance.

"This specific training will be completed in three-month period. At the same time, Dumex China will further strengthen its internal management and governance systems."

Separately, the government of Tanjin said it has taken action against 13 hospital workers caught taking bribes from Dumex. The "serious violators" received penalties ranging from cancellation of medical licences to salary deductions, Tianjin's government said yesterday.

Meanwhile, Danone is facing further allegations of corruption relating to its medical nutrition arm Nutricia. According to the 21st Century Business Herald, Nutricia, which produces Karicare milk formula, bribed doctors at 14 hospitals in Beijing between 2010 and 2013.

When the accusations emerged at the end of last month, Nutricia told just-food it was launching an investigation into the claims. No further comment has been made.