China Food Safety
A crisis in confidence in China's food industry emerged after melamine was found in domestically produced baby formula in 2008. The scandal sickened 300,000 babies and resulted in six premature deaths. Other stories of fake eggs, diseased pork, recycled oil, mislabelled meat and more have only led to more calls for industry reform.
Mainland Chinese mothers still back Hong Kong milk products as best for baby
Despite tests showing little difference in content, confidence in mainland products is still lacking
Emily Tsang and Celine Sun
Mainland mothers still prefer to buy infant formula sold in Hong Kong or other places, despite laboratory tests confirming there was no significant difference in the nutrient content of foreign milk brands sold in Hong Kong and on the mainland.
Health sector lawmaker Dr Leung Ka-lau said the urge mainlanders had to buy dairy products in Hong Kong was due to a "crisis of confidence" over Chinese milk brands that would not be sorted out quickly.
"They may still prefer the product packaging in traditional Chinese rather than simplified Chinese," he said.
Tests commissioned by the Post and conducted in a certified laboratory confirmed that two brands, including Mead Johnson's Stage 1 formula and Wyeth Nutrition's Stage 1 formula, bought in Hong Kong showed little difference in nutrient levels when compared with the same companies' products bought on the mainland.
Mead Johnson, one brand that suffered severe shortages in Hong Kong during the Lunar New Year, set up a production plant on the mainland a few years ago to meet demand, but its products sold in Hong Kong are shipped from the Netherlands.
Despite the result suggesting safe and good-quality formula could be easily bought in mainland supermarkets, one mainland mother, Zhang Xiaojing, who has a three-year-old daughter, told the Post she would still prefer to buy milk powder in Hong Kong.
"Although their nutritional content is the same, there are still differences between the products made in China and other places," she said.
She used to buy Similac, made by Abbott Laboratories, from Hong Kong and the United States for her daughter.
"I once bought Similac from Beijing, Hong Kong and the US. The one from Beijing tasted very sweet, and the one from US was the least sweet. The one from Hong Kong was in the middle. As a mother, I don't want to feed my child with something too sweet."
Another mainland mother, Cindy Yeung, who has a one-year-old son, said she was more concerned about whether the product was packed in China, although she was sure foreign brands sold on the mainland had ingredients similar to those sold in Hong Kong .
"Last year I bought a formula from the Netherlands that was tainted when it was packaged in the Chinese distributor's plant," she said.
In March, the Hong Kong government introduced a controversial export limit on infant formula that restricted outbound travellers to taking no more than two tins, totalling 1.8kg, of formula out of the city.
A Mead Johnson spokeswoman said products sold in Hong Kong were manufactured in and imported directly from the Netherlands, while those sold on the mainland were manufactured at the company's plant in Guangzhou.
Products sold in different countries and areas might have slight variations in nutrition levels due to different local regulations and requirements.
A Wyeth Nutrition spokeswoman said the company held regular open days for the public at its manufacturing facility in Suzhou to monitor production quality.
Wyeth Gold products sold in Hong Kong were from Ireland and Singapore, while those in the mainland were from Singapore and the Suzhou plant.