The melamine milk scandal of 2008 left a lot of families worried, and rightfully so. Six babies died and hundreds of thousands of infants became ill drinking tainted milk and baby formula.
In the years following, the government has moved to prosecute those responsible and rein in a seemingly unmonitored dairy industry. The cynics among us doubted if this would have any real effect. However, industry-wide change is slow and there now seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Jennifer Thome recently spoke with Marie-Paule Benassi of the European External Action Service, Beijing about China’s dairy industry reforms. Benassi says:
"China has been working on a new food safety law for years, and have studied the food safety laws of other countries as well as the EU. The Food Safety Law of China, which was adopted in 2009, is actually really close to the food safety principles of Europe, but the big problem is that these laws have been instated really rapidly, and with no additional resources given for the implementation."
For the full interview, pick up the next edition of Agenda, out April 21.
While change is slow and implementation difficult, we are starting to see it’s effects. The BBC recently reported that 50 percent of China’s dairies would be closed after failing to pass new, stricter safety audits.
Chinese media has reported:
- Until the end of March 2011, 643 of 1,176 Chinese dairy companies passed the production permit review — 426 failed
- Of those dairy companies reviewed, 145 produced baby formula. 114 of baby formula producers passed their permit review
- 11 dairy production companies have been officially suspended in Shaanxi province, out of a total 52. This may cause diary prices to rise by 10%
- The crack-down has eliminated 54.68% of China’s dairy companies, far higher than the predicted 30%. If certain leading companies could seize the opportunity, long-term overall benefits can be obtained