The measures were set out in a document released by nine agencies, including the State Food and Drug Administration and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology last week.
Certification and monitoring
Now infant formula companies will be subject to the same strict product certification system that drug companies must comply to. Moreover, manufacturers must now report the ingredients they use in infant formula to the food safety administration and give advance notice of any changes.
Electronic tagging will be used to bring greater traceability to each phase of the production process, and companies that are unable to guarantee the quality of their ingredients, or whose production facilities and testing equipment do not meet the required standards, will be shut down.
Import-wise, foreign manufacturers must now register with Beijing before they can send their products to mainland China, and the regulations now prohibit any bulk powder consignments that are destined to be repackaged for subsequent sale.
The South China Morning Post has quoted positive reactions by analysts following the move. Chen Lianfang, an analyst with Beijing Orient Agribusiness, told the paper that Premier Li Keqiang had played an ace card by ordering the new regulations. "The measures are tough and not just on the surface," Chen said. "He seems to mean it. It's his time to show leadership."
The move to prevent repackaging of imported powder is particularly interesting as many mainland formula companies have cottoned on to registering a foreign address and labelling their products as imports.
Indeed, earlier this year the New Zealand Baby Formula Export Association revealed that only 20 out of 200 supposedly Kiwi infant formula brands on sale in China actually came from the country. This practice comes as a result of the high profit margin on such products and low confidence in domestic brands.
Two years ago, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine raised the product quality threshold for manufacturers of baby formula and 475 firms were shut down as a result, food administration deputy director Teng Jiacai told media last week.
The mainland now has 127 infant formula producers that manufactured around 600,000 tonnes of the product last year.
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