December 2, 2011
China's Ministry of Health on Thursday (Nov 1) moved to counter accusations that it compromised safety in the drafting of new minimum standards for milk production under pressure from the dairy industry.
The country's current dairy safety standards have stirred complaints since taking effect in June, with critics arguing they are the weakest in the world and were created to accommodate calls from major dairy producers for leniency.
The maximum limit for bacteria in raw milk, or the aerobic plate count, is currently set at two million cells per millilitre in China, four times higher than the amount allowed under previous regulations. And the protein content requirement was also lowered from 2.95 to 2.8 grams.
Wang Dingmian, president of the Guangzhou Dairy Association, said this represents a retreat to standards that have not been used in 25 years and that the standards are the weakest of their kind in the world.
He believed they were lowered because of pressure from dairy producers seeking to reap larger profits by cutting costs.
Zhang Xudong, a ministry official in charge of food safety, denied the process was in any way "kidnapped" by dairy producers. He stated that the drafting panel of the latest national dairy legislation consists of 70 members, including people from the government, academia and the dairy industry.
"It was right that dairy producers, crucial to the safety of their produce, should be represented in the drafting committee," he added.
China's dairy industry suffered a heavy blow after a scandal in 2008 in which baby formula was found to be tainted with melamine, an industrial compound used to create plastic and resin. The tainted formula led to the deaths of six infants and sickened 300,000 children across the country.