Clay Cooker Recall in China

May 30, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

China’s home appliance giant Midea was forced to recall an electric slow cooker and apologize to customers after it was revealed that the product was made with ordinary clay instead of purple clay.

Midea had promoted its clay cookers—a popular cooking appliance in China—as being made from natural purple clay, which is generally rich in iron. Pots made from purple clay have an improved air permeability compared to pots made from ordinary clay.

Chinese manufacturers also claim that cookers made from purple clay have health benefits, and thus they sell at a premium price of more than 1,000 yuan (US$146). Ordinary clay cookers sell for 50–80 yuan (US$7–$12).

Changjiang Daily revealed on May 25 that the Midea cookers are indeed made from ordinary clay. The report said that a factory in Hunan Province, which provided the inner containers for Midea, has been using black clay, red earth, and white clay to make the containers.

In order to make them look purple, special processing was done, adding certain chemical raw materials such as ferric oxide, manganese dioxide, and iron oxide pigments, which are generally used in paint, printing ink, and rubber coloring.

Company recall statement

“Midea has provided inaccurate information in their promotion. We sincerely apologize to customers,” said a statement issued by the manufacturing company.

The statement said the company would suspend the production and sales of the cookers and launch an investigation. Customers could return the product to designated recall centers, including supermarkets or stores where they made the purchase.

The scandal caused a chain reaction in the clay cooker market. Other brands of purple clay cookers were also removed from supermarkets, according to a supermarket manager.

Consumer confidence shaken

Despite being eligible for a refund, customers say they have lost confidence in the company. They have called for better government oversight and heavy fines to punish the manufacturer.

And while Midea claims that the inner clay container is nontoxic and harmless, many consumers don’t believe it.

One consumer said, “I thought name brand products were of better quality, so I’d rather pay higher prices to get them. Now I really don’t know whom I can trust.”

Another consumer said on a blog, “Other than liars, we have nothing real in this country.”

According to Midea, more than 100 million units of the clay cookers were produced in 2009. The total number of cookers produced by them is estimated to be from 300 to 500 million units.

Midea would have to pay refunds of between 3.6 billion and 6 billion yuan (US$562 million to $877 million) if the average price of the cooker is valued at 600 yuan (US$88).

Midea was founded as a village domestic company in 1968. It currently employs nearly 80,000 people. Its 2008 revenue was 88 billion yuan (US$12.87 billion).

China manufactures and exports many hazardous products. These have included tainted milk powder, lead-contaminated toys, toxic pet food, sofas, dry wall, and more.

Read the original Chinese article