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China cleans up raw milk industry but experts say more must be done

07-04-2011 19:16 BJT

BEIJING, July 4 (Xinhua) -- China has acted to clean up its raw milk industry to ensure safety at the source of the industrial chain, but some experts say the nation is implementing a very low standard.

Gu Jicheng, secretary-general of the Dairy Association of China, said agricultural departments have eliminated a total of 6,890 disqualified raw milk stations during a three-year campaign that began in 2008.

In the wake of the campaign, a total of 13,503 raw milk stations and 7,980 raw milk transportation vehicles throughout the country are subject to the monitoring of local authorities, Gu said in an interview with the People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of China's ruling party.

"All the stations are now either run by dairy companies, cow farms, or cooperatives established by dairy farmers," said Gu, who used the rise of machinery-milking to 87 percent from 51 percent nearly three years ago as an example of improved hygiene standards.

Despite that, Guo Benheng, president of Bright Dairy & Food, said that China's raw milk standard was nearly the world's lowest, according to a report Sunday by SINA, a leading online media company.

The country's raw milk standards of protein content and colony-forming unit (CFU) is much lower than those from the United States and the European Union, the report said, citing Wang Dingmian, an industrial expert.

"International standards for the dairy industry also require checks of antibiotics and nitrites in raw milk, but China does not even make such requirements," Guo said.

The credibility of China's dairy industry was severely damaged in 2008 when milk laced with melamine, a chemical added to milk products to make the protein content seem richer, sickened nearly 300,000 children and killed at least six.

China's milk processing technologies are among the world's best, but the problem lies in the low standard of the raw milk, said Guo Benheng, adding that the priority now should be focused on the improvement of raw milk quality.

Since 2009, agricultural departments have paid great attention to the safety and supervision of raw milk, and strictly cracked down upon illegally adding substances such as melamine to raw milk.

Additionally, the nation's top quality regulator in January ordered that dairy product markers must obtain new production certificates this year, and those with weak quality guarantees will be shut down.

By the end of March, only 643 dairy firms among a total of 1,176 companies had passed the examinations, said Ren Fazheng, a professor with the China Agricultural University.

Ren said this overhaul promoted restructuring in the dairy industry and was beneficial to the improvement of quality and safety of the country's dairy products, as both dairy output and consumption surged last year.

According to figures provided by Ren, dairy output reached 21.59 million metric tonnes last year, up 48 percent compared to 2006; meanwhile, per capita spending on dairy products by residents in 36 large and medium-sized cities reached 277 yuan (43 U.S. dollars), up 40 percent compared to 2006.

Editor:Xiong Qu |Source: Xinhua

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