An AcciMap approach to analyse the Chinese melamine milk scandal

Soon-Sinclair, Jan Mei orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0488-1434 (2024) An AcciMap approach to analyse the Chinese melamine milk scandal. British Food Journal . ISSN 0007-070X

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Purpose: The 2008 Chinese melamine milk scandal resulted in six reported fatalities and affected around 300,000 children of which 54,000 were hospitalised. Previous studies have used linear approaches to examine the root causes of the melamine milk scandal.

Methodology: In the present study we applied a systems approach to the melamine milk scandal to identify the complex systems level failures across the supply chain leading to the incident and why food fraud incidents such as this occurred in the dairy sector. Additionally, systemic failures associated with food fraud vulnerability factors were considered (i.e., opportunities, motivation and control measures).

Findings: Forty-eight contributory factors of influence were identified and grouped across six sociotechnical levels across the Chinese dairy system from government to equipment and surroundings. Lack of vertical integration (processes and communication) contributed to the failure. When viewed in a broader perspective, the melamine milk scandal can be linked to a series of human error and organisational issues associated with government bodies, the dairy supply chain, individual organisations and management decisions and individual actions of staff or processes.

Originality: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to analyse a food fraud incident using the AcciMap approach and food fraud vulnerability assessment (FFVA) technique. Accimap analysis is applied to both unintentional and intentional aspects of the incident.

Practical Implication: This approach is of value to policy makers and the industry as it supports public health investigation of food fraud incidents and proactive food safety management.

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