Chinese consumers have expressed mixed feelings after an industry association in China, in an effort to raise consumer confidence, released its first dairy quality report.
The Dairy Association of China (DAC) said in the report it compiled that the quality of domestic milk products has improved substantially, based on the results of 151,000 batches of diary products checked nationwide by the Ministry of Agriculture since 2009.
The report, which was published Tuesday, said 99.5 percent of dairy products checked last year were up to standard and no illegal additives, such as melamine, had been detected in fresh milk for the past seven consecutive years.
The improvement of quality in the milk industry has been made as China has taken several measures over the past years to regain public trust, including tightening supervision, shutting down unqualified dairy operations, and increasing policy support.
The country’s milk industry has long been in the shadow of a high-profile 2008 safety scandal, when infant formula produced by Sanlu Group, then a leading dairy company in northern China’s Hebei Province, was found to contain the chemical melamine, which killed six babies and left thousands seriously ill.
Following the incident, more contaminated milk products were discovered nationwide, prompting scared Chinese consumers to turn to overseas milk products, especially for infants.
Despite the official figures in improvement of domestically produced dairy products, however, the feelings of Chinese consumers remain mixed.
“I still will not buy Chinese milk powder for my baby,” said Yang Yang, a new mother in Beijing. “My daughter drinks breast milk and I have stored some milk powder from Japanfor her … No one dares to risk their babies’ lives to test the safety of Chinese milk products.”
Wang Lei, another new mother in Beijing also said she would not choose Chinese baby milk products, as she thinks that imported baby milk products are easy to buy online and not too expensive.
While some remain skeptical, others say they have faith in domestic milk products.
Wang Jian, whose daughter is 3-year-old now, said she has always been a firm supporter of Chinese infant formula. Wang said her daughter had tried many products and the infant liked a Bright Diary formula most, a domestic brand based in Shanghai.
“I’ve also compared ingredients of both foreign and domestic infant formulas, and I believe the Chinese formula is the most suitable for Chinese babies,” said Wang.
Li Xiaoli, a nurse from Hebei with an 18 day-old baby girl, said that so far she has fed the baby with breast milk but will choose domestic formula in the future if necessary. She said the official report released Tuesday has increased her confidence.
Wang Xianzhi, a food industry analyst at the Liaowang Institution, said the dairy quality report will be regularly released by the DAC and will serve as an important way for consumers to know more about the industry.
Wang said that although Chinese dairy product quality has improved dramatically since 2008, the situation was still challenging, and the biggest challenge lies not just in quality, but in consumer confidence.
Freelance dairy industry analyst Song Liang said that after eight years of recovery, the Chinese dairy industry is now ready to regain the trust of the public, but more efforts from the industry, government and media are needed to shore up market confidence.