A recent comment by the deputy director of dairy management in Guangzhou, saying that half of the city's products are not made from fresh milk, has sparked public concerns over their safety.
Wang Dingmian, who is also an executive council member of the Dairy Association of China, said at a symposium on Saturday that the problem was the result of a limited supply of fresh milk. The amount produced from 20,000 cows in Guangzhou plus the milk transported into the city covers just 50 to 60 per cent of local demand, he said.
"The gap [between supply and demand] can be filled only with a kind of reconstituted milk that is a mixture of imported milk powder and water," he was quoted as saying by the Guangzhou-based New Express on Monday. "Therefore, the milk we drink is not 100 per cent fresh."
After that report, the newspaper said yesterday that it had received a flood of calls from residents asking which brands were made with reconstituted milk.
Wang told the newspaper that all three major brands in the city use reconstituted milk.
Some internet users lamented on their microblog accounts that nothing appeared to be safe to drink on the mainland.
Another commenter said the revelation explains why a slew of wealthy people in Shenzhen pay high prices for breast milk, referring to a report last week.
Besides pasteurised milk, which must be fresh, Wang said many other products, such as yoghurt, could be made from reconstituted milk.
The Guangzhou-based Fengxing and Yantang dairy producers told the New Express that they used reconstituted milk in some of their products, which was stated on the labels.
Another brand, Xiangmanlou, told the paper that it used fresh milk in all of its products.
The Shanghai Dairy Association's deputy secretary, Cao Mingshi , told the South China Morning Post that it is common practice for dairy brands on the mainland to use reconstituted milk in their products because fresh milk is in such short supply.
"It is legal as long as they mark the contents on the labels. Consumers can make own their decision," Cao said.