Mainland Chinese urged to drink more milk as part of national nutrition plan

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 February, 2014, 3:48am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 February, 2014, 3:48am

Mainlanders will be urged to drink more milk and get fewer calories from traditional staples in a national plan to improve food supply and nutrition.

China's dairy industry has yet to fully regain the confidence of consumers following a 2008 scandal in which dairy supplies were adulterated with melamine to boost protein levels, causing six babies to die and tens of thousands of others to fall ill.

The China Food and Nutrition Development Plan for 2014-2020, issued on Monday by the State Council, aims to raise average milk consumption to about 100 millilitres a day by 2020, up from the 15ml per day under the 2000-2010 plan.

The other specific food named for development was soya bean, the cultivation of which in the major production region of Heilongjiang fell by half in the past nine years. China, once self-sufficient in soya bean cultivation, is the world's largest importer.

The plan was drafted due to "the inability of food production to meet nutritional requirements, the coexistence of malnutrition and overnutrition, and the lack of public knowledge on nutrition and health", a council statement said.

He Jiguo, dean of the nutrition and food safety department at China Agricultural University, said the plan's emphasis on dairy was due to mainlanders' traditionally low intake of calcium. Soya bean products were targeted because they have the highest protein content of plant foods.

"The point for the dairy sector it that it must address the management of milk processing, to rebuild public trust," He said, referring to lingering concerns over safety. Supporting the soya bean sector was necessary because "China lags behind other countries in seed breeding and processing technology."

Fan Zhihong , from the Chinese Nutrition Society under the supervision of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said the plan showed the improvement in variety and quality of the Chinese diet. "A decade ago, 70 to 80 per cent of our calories came from staples. This plan reduces it to 50 per cent," she said.

Fan emphasised the plan's attention to dietary problems. "One important phenomenon in China today is that in some remote western regions, up to 30 per cent of children are malnourished, while in affluent areas such as Beijing, childhood obesity is ballooning," she said.

Recent research showed that about half of a representative sample of Chinese adults were estimated to have prediabetes, while the estimated prevalence of diabetes was 11.6 per cent, slightly higher than the 10 per cent global average.