China begins project to create 'breast milk' formula

China begins project to create 'breast milk' formula

BEIJING - China is pumping about 10 million yuan (S$2 million) to develop baby formula which closely resembles Chinese mothers' breast milk.

The Beijing Science and Technology Commission confirmed yesterday that the project has started, China Daily reported.

The initiative studies the active constituents of Chinese mothers' breast milk and will set up a database for developing the formula.

However, Mr Chen Lijun, deputy general manager of Beijing Sanyuan Foods Co, which is working on the project with other research institutes, warned that the nutritional levels in the baby formula can never reach that of breast milk.

"We can only try our best to make it similar to breast milk," he told Beijing Youth Daily.

Nevertheless, Mr Han Junhua, a researcher with the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment, said the project can improve the quality of baby milk.

In addition, it can "boost domestic diary brands", the Beijing Science and Technology Commission said.

Until now, Chinese diary companies have been relying on World Health Organisation guidelines for what should be in infant formula.

UNSUITABLE

But the formula based on these standards may not suit Chinese babies, according to an article published in November on the Beijing Natural Science Foundation's website.

Consumer confidence in domestic brands of infant formula was severely damaged in 2008, when Sanlu was found to have adulterated its infant formula with melamine.

The dairy producer later went bankrupt.

Mr Wu Guangchi, a child nutrition researcher, said: "We understand consumers' concern, but the public can rest assured that the quality of domestic formula products is safe, as the government is paying great attention to it and has been taking a series of measures."

He added that the basic ingredients in domestic formula are similar to those in foreign brands.

"Consumer awareness of the quality of baby formula has increased a lot since the melamine scandal," Mr Wu maintained.

This article was published on May 13 in The New Paper.

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