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Consumers slowly regaining taste for dairy

Updated: 2012-09-25 07:48
By Jin Zhu ( China Daily)

The quality of milk produced domestically improved after the melamine-tainted milk scandal of 2008, authorities said.

Yet analysts say the country's dairy products continue to live under a shadow, affecting consumption trends.

The Ministry of Agriculture has been carrying out special tests since 2009 to examine whether raw fresh milk contains banned additives, including melamine and leather-hydrolyzed protein.

By the end of last year, 56,000 sample batches of raw fresh milk had been collected randomly from wholesalers and delivery vehicles nationwide, and all tested safe, the ministry said in a statement.

"The quality of raw fresh milk has improved significantly," the statement added.

The test started after six infants were killed and about 300,000 others were poisoned by tainted milk in 2008, according to the Health Ministry.

Former dairy giant Sanlu Group and 21 other companies were found to have contaminated products with melamine, a chemical that can cause kidney problems.

The chemical was added to dairy products by milk farmers to boost protein count.

Also, sources with the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine showed that the country had 701 dairy companies last year.

The number was far lower than the previous 1,176, as almost 500 companies had been ordered to stop production after failing to meet new licensing requirements, the administration said.

To ensure that the quality of milk remained high, some large dairy companies set up their own farms.

Inner Mongolia autonomous region's Yili Industrial Group, for instance, now farms cattle on more than 333 hectares of newly created grassland. The company imported dairy cattle from many countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Last year, China was home to 14.4 million cattle, producing 38.1 million tons of milk, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

In response to rising demand, milk production is expected to increase by 5.8 percent year-on-year, hitting 50 million tons in 2015, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, analysts raised concerns that some Chinese dairy products may continue to suffer poor sales as the public has been spooked by a series of safety scandals in recent years.

"Even famous dairies now have a glut of unsold milk powder, which is partly because such products imported from overseas are now the first choice for many consumers," said Wang Dingmian, chairman of the Guangzhou Dairy Industry Association.

China imported 1.06 million tons of dairy products last year, an increase from 850,000 tons in 2010, according to the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

Contact the writer at jinzhu@chinadaily.com.cn

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