The Beijing government has begun a project to develop baby formula that will closely resemble Chinese women's breast milk.
Zhang Xiaohua, an official with the Beijing Science and Technology Commission, confirmed on Monday that the project has started. It has a budget of more than 10 million yuan (S$1.9 million), according to the budget plan released by the commission.
The project will study the ingredients and active constituents of the breast milk of Chinese mothers and set up a breast milk database for developing the formula.
But "the nutrition in baby formula can never reach the level of breast milk", said Chen Lijun, deputy general manager of Beijing Sanyuan Foods Co, which is working on the project with other research institutes.
"We can only try our best to make it similar to breast milk," Chen told Beijing Youth Daily.
China's standards on the ingredients for infant formula were made according to the information of breast milk ingredients published by the World Health Organisation and uses ingredients similar to those employed in developed countries.
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. Zhang Yumei, a professor at the School of Public Health of Peking University, was one of the researchers who collaborated on the report.
Han Junhua, a researcher with the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment, said the project can improve the quality of the formula.
The project is also meant to "boost domestic diary brands", the commission said.
Consumer confidence in domestic brands of infant formula was severely damaged in 2008, when Sanlu, a dairy producer that later went bankrupt, was found to have adulterated its infant formula with melamine.
"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," said Wu Guangchi, a child nutrition researcher, who added that the basic ingredients in domestic formula are similar to that in foreign brands.
"Consumer's awareness of the quality of baby formula has increased a lot since the melamine scandal," Wu said.