Baby, or infant, formula is a manufactured food for babies often used as a substitute for breast milk. It is a powder or liquid concentrate that is mixed with water and fed through a bottle. It is widely used in Asia, which represents 53% of the global market share. In Hong Kong, a shortage in availability of baby formula led to restrictions on how much could be taken out of the city and into mainland China.
New infant milk formula rules 'are not targeted at specific brands'
A new regulation restricting market access to 41 foreign infant milk formula manufacturers from May 1 is not intended to exclude any major brands, according to a researcher at a government think-tank.
To tighten quality controls in the domestic market, China now requires all infant milk formula produced overseas to be registered with the nation's quality watchdog before it can be sold in the country.
The first batch of approved formula manufacturers are from 13 countries including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and European countries, the Certification and Accreditation Administration said on its website this week.
"As far as we know, all the major imported infant milk formula brands sold in China have been approved," said Song Liang, a senior dairy industry analyst at the Distribution Productivity Promotion Centre of China Commerce in Beijing.
Asked why no brands from the US or Japan were included on the list, despite such brands as Abbott and Meiji being among the top sellers, Song said products sold under those names in China were mainly sourced in countries like Singapore, New Zealand or Australia. Only factories making the products need to meet registration requirements, he said.
Another list of brands approved for sale in China will be released soon, Song said. Best sellers like Abbott, Wyeth, Friso and Chinese brands made abroad like Beingmate and Ausnutria are expected to be included.
In August, New Zealand's Fonterra, the world's largest dairy processor, recalled products from Asia after it was feared a consignment was contaminated with botulism-causing bacteria.
Although it proved to be a false alarm, Fonterra reported another food scare in January when some of its products were tainted with E coli bacteria.