Industry Pressure Blamed for China’s “Shameful” Milk Safety Standards

Posted June 22nd, 2011 at 1:10 am (UTC-5)
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Chinese state media say pressure from powerful dairy interests is to blame for China having the weakest milk safety standards of any major country.

The Communist Party-controlled Global Times reported Wednesday that the allowable bacteria count in Chinese milk is 20 times higher than in the United States or Europe. It also says protein requirements are lower than in other major countries.

The newspaper quotes the chairman of the Guangzhou Dairy Association as saying the standards were lowered last year under pressure from giant dairy producers. The chairman, Wang Dingmian, said at an industry meeting in Fujian province that the standards are “a shame for the industry around the world.”

Wang also says raw milk is generally low in bacteria when it is delivered to the major producers, but that they wanted the looser standards because of poor sanitation at their own facilities.

Milk safety has been a sensitive issue in China since 2008, when six children were killed and thousands were sickened by milk powder laced with an industrial chemical used to make its protein count appear higher.

In April, the government shut down nearly half of China's dairies because of concerns about contaminated milk. It said about one-fifth of the companies could have their licenses restored once they improved their quality controls.

Later that month, three children died and 36 others were sickened by drinking tainted milk from two dairies in northeast China. State media said later that nitrite had been added to the milk in a deliberate attempt to cause harm.