|By Tessa Wong|
Twenty-five of 30 shoppers polled at stores across the island said they were avoiding anything edible from China, including canned food and even toothpaste.
The wariness comes after the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) announced that a Yili yogurt ice bar, White Rabbit milk candy and Dutch Lady strawberry milk were tainted with melamine. They are among a growing list of China-made products found to contain the toxic chemical, which is normally found in plastics.
The discovery has shocked consumers here into vigilance. Nearly all who spoke to The Straits Times said they were paying more attention to food labels when they shop.
'I didn't use to be really aware of the origin of products, as long as the price was good and it wasn't past the expiry date. Now, I check the labels on all the food I buy,' said Mr Soumya Banerjee, 29, an information technology analyst.
Retailers have been purging food and drinks from China since the AVA last Friday stopped the sale and import of all milk and dairy products from China.
On Sunday, it called on stores to recall confectioneries and anything else that might include Chinese dairy products as an ingredient.
Most stores have been conducting triage on their stocks since last Friday, first pulling China-made milk and dairy products, then confectioneries off the shelves, and finally tracking down suppliers to determine if food made elsewhere included Chinese dairy products.
It is believed that the process of nailing down the origin of ingredients could take days.
Supermarket chains FairPrice, Cold Storage, Giant and Shop N Save, along with convenience stores Cheers and 7-Eleven, have each yanked dozens of products from their shelves.
The list includes M&Ms, Snickers peanut bars, Dove chocolate bars, Oreo wafer sticks, Magnum mini classics ice cream, Monmilk milk and Walls Mini Poppers ice cream.
The recalls come as consumers worry about the reach of the contaminated milk. 'It's very disturbing. Even though we buy products that are made in Singapore or Australia, how do we know that the ingredients that go in them are really not from China?' asked Ms Tricia Li, 27, a marketing executive.
Meanwhile, the recall has the potential to hit retailers hard, experts said.
Some retailers are offering customers refunds even as they negotiate with suppliers for their own rebates when they return recalled products.
Retail expert Lau Chuen Wei said smaller retailers could find the going tough. 'They traditionally do not have that much choice in products, so they may feel (the pinch) a bit more,' she said.
A manager at Sheng Siong's Tanglin Halt outlet estimated that the store had lost $1,000 in sales in the past week. They started recalling products early last week when news first broke about the scandal in China.
Supermarkets could end up losing big if suppliers refused to give refunds, said Ms Lau.
Additional reporting by Jessica Lim and Diana Othm