Xinhuanet, a news portal affiliated with Xinhua, claimed in an article on Tuesday that the South China Morning Post was spreading fear among mainland parents by saying that mainland brands of infant milk formula contain trans-fat.
In one of the articles, it said that a Hong Kong newspaper "used the mainland public's high concern and sensitivity towards baby formula, as well as their lack of familiarity with trans-fat, to create irrational fear".
On Monday, the Post published a front-page article headlined “Trans-fat found in baby milk formula”. It reported that laboratory tests commissioned by the newspaper found three popular mainland baby formula brands contained trans-fat, which experts said could lead to heart disease.
Xinhuanet noted the newspaper article came soon after the National Development and Reform Commission launched investigations into alleged anti-competitive practices by five foreign baby formula brands.
“The SCMP is an independent and credible media organisation in Hong Kong,” said Wang Xiangwei, editor-in-chief of the Post. “In the interests of our readers, we ran a factual and fair story that accurately reflected the findings of experts in the field.”
Wang said the decision to test the infant formulas was made months ago and was not in response to the mainland’s current campaign against alleged monopolistic pricing tactics by certain foreign companies.
He noted that in February, Hong Kong suffered a shortage of some brands of baby formula because of parallel trading driven by mainland demand. Due to scandals on the mainland over adulterated milk, some people thought brands available in Hong Kong were of higher quality.
So, in April, the newspaper commissioned a recognised independent laboratory, Castco Testing Centre Limited, to test the quality of seven popular products.
“We made efforts to seek comment from all the brands mentioned. But only one mainland brand, Beingmate, replied to us before the report was published,” Wang said.
The Post report stated that the levels of trans-fat in the three formulas – Beingmate’s Baby Club, Synutra’s Super infant formula, and Yili’s Gold infant formula – fell within mainland and international safety standards.
Two popular overseas brands, made by Mead Johnson and Wyeth, were not found to contain trans-fat.
In another Post report the same day, mainland mothers told reporters they would still prefer to buy infant milk formula in Hong Kong.
The tests showed there were no significant differences in the nutrient content of the foreign brands on sale in Hong Kong and the mainland.
Mead Johnson and Wyeth products sold in the city are imported from overseas, while those on the mainland may be manufactured there.