More than 18,000 cans of infant formula produced by Xinjiang Western Animal Husbandry were found to contain expired ingredients, the China Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday.
Two batches of milk powder contained expired docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, which was produced on Oct 12, 2015. It had an expiration date of April 11 this year, authorities said.
Other milk products from the same company were also affected by expired components, such as vitamin complex supplements, but were intercepted and not released into the market, the administration said. It did not provide details about the other products.
"The strictest supervision should be carried out to create a safe infant milk formula market environment, since this is not the first scandal involving baby milk powder," said Huo Junsheng, researcher at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for Nutrition and Health.
The harshest penalties should be used to avoid violations, and the most serious accountability system should be established to punish companies that fail to perform their duties, he added.
Xinjiang Western Animal Husbandry was also found to have used refined corn oil and soybean oil to replace refined grape seed oil, and lactose instead of white granulated sugar. It also changed the amount of the DHA used in its nine infant food products - all of which violate infant formula regulations.
According to the statement, the company's facilities also did not comply with production requirements.
"Frustrated by food safety scandals over the past few years, many Chinese consumers have lost faith in the domestic food quality and opted for Western infant formula suppliers in search of reliable and delicious alternatives for their children," said Li Shengli, a professor at China Agricultural University's College of Animal Science and Technology.
If companies don't learn the lessons of similar scandals and are not extremely careful with their quality and reputation, they will soon lose all their market share, he said.
In 2008, baby formula tainted with melamine caused the deaths of at least six infants and sickened 300,000.