Product recalled on Saturday but most people only aware on Sunday
Malaysia Milk Sdn Bhd announced the recall of Marigold HL Milk (200ml and 1L) from the Malaysia market with immediate effect on 15 November 2016 (Saturday). However, most of the customers only became aware on Sunday. The hotline was closed on Sunday. It only operates Monday to Friday (8.30am to 5pm) and Saturday (8.30am to 1pm).
The company found issue with the chocolate milk but the recall also included other plain milk as a precautionary move.
Higher-than-usual viscosity but nobody understands
The product recall was in response to “several customer feedback indicating the viscosity of Marigold HL Milk was higher than usual.” The explanation unfortunately is not relevant and does not resonate with ordinary Malaysians. They do not know what is “viscosity.” Google search does not help either.
Essentially, nobody except those inside the dairy industry, knows exactly what has happened to Marigold HL Milk. Based on the messages left by consumers on Marigold HL Milk Facebook page, they were unclear about the effect of this issue on their health. Bryan Ng asked if it would be fatal, while Ng inquired about the side effects.
Both Ng and Bryan posted the queries near midnight on 16 October (Sunday). Malaysia Milk only made public its reply at around 6pm the following day on Monday (17 October).
Most of the official replies to the customer Facebook queries that can be publicly seen were made on Monday at around 6-7pm.
Bacterial spoilage as the real reason – 17 October
The real reason, according to Malaysia Milk, is bacterial spoilage, which causes high viscosity. Unfortunately, this was not explained in the official statement dated 15 October 2016 even though it says the team has ‘ascertained’ the issue. The company should have done more to improve transparency by issuing another press statement on 17 October 2016 to explain about the bacterial spoilage.
Mass media repeating the official line
The first reaction by the mass media including The Star, Sinar Harian, Sin Chew Jit Poh and New Straits Times on 16 October 2016 was to repeat the official statement about high viscosity and the recall.
The official reason, bacterial contamination, was only reported the next day by Bernama, The Malay Mail Online, The Star (Bernama article), Singapore’s Straits Times, Singapore’s Channel 8 News and The Borneo Post (Bernama article) citing Malaysia Milk General Manager Poh Eng Lip that “the quality of the milk was compromised due to bacterial contamination, with side effects of consuming the compromised quality of milk possibly including mild stomach discomfort although there are no long-term side effects.”
Consumers confused about the expiry date
Most of the messages on the Marigold HL Milk Facebook page were about which products with their expiry date that were entitled for replacement. According to the official statement, only Marigold HL Milk with the following expiry dates are being recalled:
1.) Peninsular Malaysia: Expiry dates before 7 November 2016
2.) Sabah and Sarawak: Expiry dates before 11 November 2016
On-the-ground look on the 2nd day of the recall
All the Marigold HL Milk was taken off the shelves at Cold Storage, Jaya One (image below was taken on 17 October 2016). This shows retailers have taken prompt actions to remove the affected products off their shelves.
At Giant Taman Connaught, the Marigold HL 2 litre milk was still available as it was not part of the recall (image below).
The company has been forthcoming in issuing the recall of not only the affected chocolate flavoured milk but also other plain milk including those with plant sterols.
However, the official statement on 15 October 2016 did not instill confidence because it did not explain the impact of drinking milk with higher-than-usual viscosity. The official statement by Malaysia Milk on 15 October 2016 can be interpreted as an attempt by the company to use technical term for damage control. This comes even though it has ascertained the source of the issue. The company eventually explained in detail about the negative impact of drinking milk with high viscosity on 17 October 2016 through the media without accompanied by another official press release, a move seen to mitigate the negative impact on the brand. (See the updates below).
Now the hard part is to regain consumer confidence and handling disgruntled consumers with compensation.
Updates on 19 October 2016:
It appears there is a second official statement but it is not available on Malaysia Milk Sdn Bhd website/Marigold HL Milk MY Facebook page. There is also a small FAQ at the end off the 1st official statement. The FAQ explains what happens when you drink milk with high viscosity.
Here is the second official statement in Mandarin. It mentions about the contamination issue and is the press release used by the media for their reports on 17 Oct 2016. The question is why did the company not make this available to the public?
Official announcement on 15 October 2016