(Yicai Global) Feb. 22 -- China's Ministry of Agriculture has released a discussion paper covering the national safety standards for milk (raw, sterilized, pasteurized and reconstituted), a major step forward after five Chinese ministries issued the National Dairy Development Plan for 2016 through 2020 last year.
The paper proposes to grade raw milk as premium, good or qualified and force producers to display this label on packaging. It also hopes to adjust requirements for physicochemical indexes and standardize the use of reconstituted milk, which is made from water and powder.
The move would benefit the sector, Song Liang, an independent analyst, told Yicai Global. By following the American model, Chinese firms can sell high quality products as pasteurized milk at better margins, while lower quality yields can become cheese or milk powder, he added. Song believes the changes could improve the added value of China's dairy and farming sectors and promote market development.
China's dairy market is no stranger to scandal. Its most notorious incident came in 2008, when 22 companies were found to be adulterating their milk with melamine, an organic compound widely used in the production of plastics which makes milk appear more protein rich. The con caused an estimated 300,000 deaths.
The newly suggested rules do not intend to change the lower limit for protein content but will grade milk accordingly. Premium milk, which will meet European Union requirements, will need 3.2 grams per milliliter, good milk will need 3 grams and qualified milk will need 2.8 grams. The maximum number of colony-forming units of bacteria per milliliter of milk will shift to one million from two million, with premium milk needing less than 100,000.
China formulated its current standards for raw milk in 2010, with regulators setting the bar for some key indexes lower than the old values laid out in 1986.