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Restoring Consumer Confidence in Chinese Infant Formula Brands

2018-09-03 09:10 Monday

A large number of Chinese consumers have ignored continued improvement in domestic infant formula quality, and have opted instead to purchase overseas dairy products with little knowledge. While this approach appears to prioritize safety, in reality such unselective consumption poses potential threats to infant health.

The highly-publicized melamine scandal in 2008 resulted in widespread public mistrust of infant formula produced in China. However, domestic producers have consistently improved infant formula quality in recent years, and achieved comparable product quality to that of imported products.


However, the contents of dairy milk can be a double-edged sword. Dairy milk provides contains diverse nutritional properties, is abundant in calcium, and help to reinforce immunity for both infants and seniors, but may also lead to certain health problems, including lactose intolerance and osteoporosis.

Quality Concerns for Overseas Products

It’s important to note that a number of European and American infant formula enterprises have recalled their products due to milk source contamination as well. The amount of imported infant formula that is either  destroyed or sent back at customs is substantial, and customers should not simply assume that a foreign brand is a guarantee of safety.

Imported milk powder

Recent news reports have detailed that many infant formula products originating from the United States, France and Ireland have been involved in widespread salmonella outbreaks, with the infected products having been exported to Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and many other countries.

A disclosure from the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) has revealed that infant formulas from Ireland are suspected of salmonella contamination. RASFF classified the incident as serious,  But it still remains unknown whether the affected infant formula has been distributed

France, the E.U., Ireland and Norway detected the salmonella outbreak and issued successive alerts within three days.


Salmonella Fears Haunt Global Market.

The second largest dairy enterprise in the world, Lactalis Group, was also troubled by a salmonella scandal in October 2017, which involved over 80 jurisdictions, and import bans of Lactalis infant formula.

Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that a salmonella outbreak happened in 33 states, resulting in 100 infections, and 30 hospitalizations.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that a whey supplier is suspected as the source for the salmonella occurrence.

infected milk powders

Although most of the infected milk powders didn’t enter the Chinese market, Chinese consumers who purchased infected products through cross-border e-commerce are potentially at risk.

Food industry analyst Zhu Dan has noted that Chinese consumers have been rational in the choice of infant formula, by increasingly opting to purchase domestic brands.

Further incidents have tarnished the reputation of major global brands. Reports on Friso, a brand owned by  Royal Friesland Campina, have stated that its infant formula products cannot dissolve in water

According to the report, Mr. Han bought three cans of Friso infant formula, only to find that the formula emitted an unpleasant odor and  could not be dissolved in water. A Friso importer explained that the products are authentic and the problem is under investigation.

Chinese customers’ trust in foreign  infant formula brands is fading and confidence in national dairy brands is on the rise.

The probability of approval from spot checks on infant formulas reached 98.3% in 2014, 98.9% in 2015 and 99.72% in 2017.

 Chinese Infant Formula

With regard to dairy products in general, the probability of acceptance reached 99.3% in 2014, climbing to 99.5% in 2015, 99.6% in 2016 and 99.6% over the first three quarters of 2017.

Infant formulas and dairy products ranked number one in terms of passing inspections among the 32 food categories subject to the regulation of the China Food and Drug Administration.

Authorities in China have demonstrated a zero tolerance attitude on food safety issues, a development that should put consumers’ minds at rest when purchasing domestic formula brands.

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