SHANGHAI, Sept 16 The official China Central
Television (CCTV) said on Monday that French food group Danone
SA had bribed doctors and nurses to recommend its
Dumex milk powder brand at a hospital in a northern Chinese
In a TV report, it cited an unidentified former Dumex sales
manager as saying that the firm had paid medical staff at the
hospital in Tianjin to give its products to newborn babies.
"Every year we would co-operate with the hospital, and give
them gifts of money, each year amounting to several hundred
thousand yuan," the former sales manager was quoted as saying in
"We would come to tacit agreements, because in Tianjin
competition is now so fierce. Every (hospital) floor would be
divided up between milk powder brands, and if you didn't give a
suitable amount of money, then perhaps the next month they would
switch brands to someone else," she said.
Danone is headquartered in France and the company was not
immediately available for comment. Danone officials in China
could not be reached for comment.
Chinese authorities have been cracking down on graft in a
number of industries, most notably the pharmaceutical sector.
China handed down a record fine in August to a number of local
and foreign-owned milk powder firms, including Danone, for price
Danone told Reuters in July it was co-operating with China's
top planning agency, the National Development and Reform
Commission (NDRC), and it had reduced the sales prices of its
main products by between 5 and 20 percent.
Corruption in China's healthcare industry is widespread,
fuelled in part by low base salaries for doctors at the
country's 13,500 public hospitals.
International guidelines, used in China, say doctors should
promote breastfeeding as the first resort unless there are
medical reasons not to.
CCTV said the former sales manager had a document detailing
payments to particular doctors, with specific bank card details
and payment amounts.
The document, which CCTV said it had seen, showed staff at
the hospital had received around 300,000 yuan ($49,000) in total
each month from Danone, with individual payments ranging from
several hundred yuan to around 10,000 yuan.
Milk powder has long been a sensitive topic in China, since
a melamine scandal in 2008 caused the deaths of at least six
infants and left many thousands ill. This dragged on local firms
while boosting the market share of international brands.
(Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Additional reporting by Shanghai
Newsroom and Christian Plumb in Paris; Editing by Kazunori
Takada, Neil Fullick and Alex Richardson)