In­fant for­mula in­dus­try faces shake-up

Man­u­fac­tur­ers must meet new safety stan­dards or close

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai zhouwent­ing@chi­

The China Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion sig­naled on Tues­day its in­ten­tion to con­sol­i­date main­land dairies that make baby for­mula, ex­perts said.

Wang Ding­mian, chair­man of the Guangzhou Dairy As­so­ci­a­tion, said that state­ments on the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s web­site sug­gest a goal of merg­ing or clos­ing up to half the 128 baby for­mula man­u­fac­tur­ers by March to im­prove qual­ity con­trol and cor­po­rate man­age­ment.

“It is aimed at fur­ther clean­ing up the dairy sec­tor and boost­ing con­fi­dence in the in­dus­try,” he said.

The cen­tral govern­ment has been try­ing to re­vive the coun­try’s in­fant for­mula in­dus­try since the 2008 melamine scan­dal, in which six chil­dren died and at least 300,000 oth­ers be­came ill af­ter drink­ing tainted milk.

One state­ment pub­lished on Tues­day is a draft rule that de­scribes the con­di­tions a com­pany must meet be­fore pro­duc­ing in­fant for­mula. The ad­min­is­tra­tion is seek­ing pub­lic com­ments by mid-Au­gust.

“The draft, once adopted, will be the new stan­dards by which the fate of the dairy busi­nesses will be de­ter­mined,” said Cao Mingshi, deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral of Shang­hai Dairy As­so­ci­a­tion.

The other state­ment is a list of the 128 li­censed baby for­mula man­u­fac­tur­ers on the Chi­nese main­land. The list in­cludes Chi­nese dairy gi­ants in­clud­ing In­ner Mon­go­lia Yili In­dus­trial Group as well as multi­na­tional com­pa­nies, such as Wyeth, Mead John­son, Ab­bott and Dumex.

Ex­perts said that only about 30 pro­duc­ers are op­er­at­ing reg­u­larly in the mar­ket.

The qual­ity man­age­ment sys­tem that the dairy com­pa­nies es­tab­lish will have to com­ply with the coun­try’s Good Man­u­fac­tur­ing Prac­tices, which are re­quired for drug man­u­fac­tur­ers, ac­cord­ing to the ad­min­is­tra­tion. The new rules will re­flect Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang’s re­quire­ment that su­per­vi­sion of baby for­mula be as strict as it is for medicine.

It in­cludes a se­ries of san­i­ta­tion and qual­ity con­trol stan­dards.

“Some com­pa­nies, es­pe­cially the old ones that haven’t been ren­o­vated, won’t sur­vive the new stan­dards,” Wang said.

Small com­pa­nies, es­pe­cially pri­vate ones, will likely be elim­i­nated be­cause of new re­quire­ments cov­er­ing re­search and de­vel­op­ment.

The draft re­quires an in­fant for­mula pro­ducer to have no fewer than five re­search staff, in­clud­ing at least two se­nior engi­neers or those hold­ing a mas­ter’s de­gree. Ex­perts said some small busi­nesses do not even have a tech­ni­cian.

“No in­no­va­tive re­search means zero vi­tal­ity and com­pet­i­tive­ness. Recipes and pro­duc­tion en­gi­neer­ing from the 1980s are un­doubt­edly in­ad­e­quate to­day,” Wang said.

Sun Jing, brand man­ager of Shang­hai Chen­guan Dairy, said she ex­pects the au­thor­i­ties to pro­vide more de­tails of the new rules.

“The Shang­hai Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion will send qual­ity in­spec­tors to tell us the de­tailed rules and give in­struc­tions,” she said.

Ye Xin­ping, deputy gen­eral man­ager of Shang­hai How­ell Nu­tri­tional Dairy, said, “Our com­pany meets most of the stan­dards and will ac­cel­er­ate im­prove­ments.”

Con­trol over raw ma­te­ri­als is also a weak­ness of the dairy busi­nesses, Wang said.

Four for­eign brands — Dumex, Kari­care and Cow & Gate, all sub­sidiaries of Danone Group, as well as Ab­bott — have been caught up in con­cern that in­gre­di­ents pro­vided by Fon­terra Co­op­er­a­tive Group Ltd, the world’s largest dairy ex­porter, might have been tainted with a bac­terium, Clostrid­ium bo­tulinum.

“Not ev­ery batch of in­fant for­mula is tested for bac­te­ria, but busi­nesses should have car­ried out sam­ple checks,” Wang said.

On Wed­nes­day, Fon­terra CEO Theo Spier­ings told Reuters that all con­tam­i­nated stocks have been re­moved from the mar­ket. The an­nounce­ment came af­ter Ab­bott re­called some of its in­fant prod­ucts on Mon­day. Ab­bott said that it re­called two batches of for­mula that were pro­duced on Fon­terra’s pro­duc­tion line, which had not been cleaned af­ter pro­duc­ing the tainted prod­ucts.

Dumex also re­called two more batches of for­mula as a pre­cau­tion on Wed­nes­day.

In Hong Kong, the city’s health au­thor­ity an­nounced that it had re­ceived five cases of ba­bies who had taken for­mula from Cow & Gate and were suf­fer­ing dis­com­fort, the Wenwei Po re­ported.

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