A Dutch supermarket manager in a large urban supermarket, who gave his last name as Bakker, knows all about Chinese food scandals. “Yes, of course we closely follow these developments,” he said. So far he decided against any signs. “That would be too discriminating. But we do want to protect our local customers. This is not about profit—our milk powder is subsidized by the Dutch government. It is about societal responsibility.” He understands the motivations of Chinese traders, but says Dutch sellers have been forced to these measures by “professional networks of Chinese extended families that systematically buy up supplies within a 10 km range.” While his store has noticed increased milk powder sales for years, the situation has become very noticeable in the second half of 2012, “possibly because the traders are becoming more organizationally sophisticated.”Breastfeeding meanwhile, thanks to both marketing and societal pressures, is largely discouraged in China, despite the advantages it has over formula.
Those who are just buying milk powder for personal use feel the stares too. They are concerned about how the signs, as well as negative coverage in local media, are affecting the image of Chinese immigrants in the Netherlands. “Those milk traders make us all lose face.” Online, Chinese-language users of the BBS forum Gogodutch.com—who appears to be citizens of the Netherlands–complain about “locusts buying 8 or 10 cans at a time.” Or: “I see them get their milk powder without paying attention to the sign and being stopped by the counter. They don’t understand Dutch or English and just stand there, insisting on the purchase. It is so f*cking embarrassing.” Others point out that trading subsidized milk powder (average price of 90 yuan/tin) bought from Dutch supermarkets is equivalent to tax evasion at the cost of Dutch babies. The webmaster repeatedly tries to bring down the temperature of the discussion: “I understand that those who are not selling milk powder feel frustrated to meet with underserved discrimination. … Complaining is ok, but please don’t personally attack people. I don’t have the time to go through every message. Thanks for your cooperation!”
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