Substandard dairy companies face closure

By Qiu Bo (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-01-07 15:14
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BEIJING - The country's top food-quality regulator on Thursday required all domestic dairy companies to renew their production licenses this year or face closure.

The move is the latest bid to ensure food safety following a scandal over melamine-tainted baby formula that killed six babies in 2008.

"The review aims to push forward large-scale production in the industry and improve the quality and safety of dairy products," Zhi Shuping, director of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), said at a national conference in Beijing.

He said small plants with low quality standards and poor production facilities would be shut down.

To increase the transparency of food safety, Zhi also said the administration will hold news conferences every month, and local bureaus are required to meet the press at least once every three months to publicize quality inspection results.

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Consumer confidence in the dairy industry nose-dived in 2008 after it was revealed that the industrial chemical melamine was being added to watered-down milk to fake its protein reading and boost profits. Infant formula made from the tainted milk killed at least six children and sickened another 300,000 children, according to official figures.

The central government has introduced a slew of measures to tighten the management of the dairy industry after the scandal. The latest policy came out in early November, when the AQSIQ released a new regulation requiring diary companies to reapply for their production licenses, or face suspension in March 2011.

AQSIQ figures revealed on Thursday also show that the industrial watchdog revoked the production licenses of 6,905 companies last year, among which 4,036 were food companies.

Zhi said the government's capability to ensure food safety has failed to meet the public's expectation. A recent national survey shows that nearly 70 percent of the Chinese public does not feel confident about food safety.

At a separate meeting on Thursday, Qu Wanxiang, vice-minister of supervision, said that authorities nationwide have handled 35 cases involving unsafe dairy powder products and seized 1,979 tons of such products since July 2010.

Xinhua contributed to this story.