- Phthalic acid esters (PAEs) were found in 5 batches of La Tourangelle walnut oil products, which has already resulted in significant damage to the brand image and holds the added potential to cause major financial losses for the company.
As revealed by a notification issued on Jul. 16 by K-Mile Industries (Shanghai) CO., Ltd. (brand operator of French La Tourangelle) , 5 batches of walnut oil produced by French La Tourangelle tested positive for phthalic acid esters (PAEs). Of the 5 batches 2 batches exceeded maximum permitted levels and the rest tested positive for PAEs residue below limits. The issue immediately became a trending hashtag on Weibo (the twitter-like platform in China), prompting Shanghai market administration to get involved in the investigation.
Phthalic acid esters is actually what we called plasticizer (DEHP), which serves as an additive for plastic production and is likely to migrate while contacting oil. According to No. 551 (2011) announcement unveiled by former Ministry of Health , it is prohibited to deliberately add phthalic acid esters in any food or food additives, and food contact materials consisting of PAEs cannot be used for oily food and food targeted at infants and young children.
All La Tourangelle products were immediately removed from flagship stores on major e-commerce platforms including Tmall, JD and Koala after the release of the alert notification. Additionally, this issue triggered major consumer backlash with the number of complaints relating to La Tourangelle, increasing exponentially. It is estimated that the loss in brand reputation could result in the loss of hundreds of millions of RMB .
The appointed lawyer of the French company La Tourangelle has alleged that this recent scandal is the result of a targeted and deliberate attempt by one of La Tourangelle’s former business partners to destroy their business in China. The dispute between the French manufacturer (La Tourangelle) and the Chinese importer (K-Mile) relates to a trademark issue. The French trademark of La Tourangelle is owned by the manufacturer, however, K-Mile applied for a Chinese version of the trademark “拉杜蓝乔” in China and started to use it without the permission of the manufacturer. According to our sources it appears that this infringement was a major breach of contract and La Tourangelle decided to stop supplying their products to K-Mile as of June 2019. According to other sources it appears K-Mile was unwilling to accept this and embarked on a deliberate smear campaign designed to severely damage the brand image of the French company.
La Tourangelle is a walnut/nut oil brand from France, whose factory has more than 150 years' history. The products went viral in China in recent years and have been performing extremely well across China’s e-commerce platforms (there are more than 150 thousands comments on JD flagship store, indicating that it is very popular among Chinese consumers).