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Experts: Food-testing costs passed on to consumers

(China Daily)

08:42, November 10, 2011

TIANJIN - After a series of scandals shook consumers' confidence in recent years, Chinese dairy companies have begun to invest heavily in labs meant to hold their products to a high standard.

Experts said it was very likely that consumers were paying for this work.

Wang Dingmian, chairman of the Guangzhou Dairy Association, said many experts and dairy businesses spoke at the 2011 China Dairy Development Forum, which began on Oct 23, about the increasing price of consumer products and about expensive lab costs.

"For example, the cost of purchasing and processing a ton of milk powder is 31,000 yuan ($4,900)," Wang said. "And the cost of testing may reach 4,000 yuan, excluding the costs of equipment maintenance and technical improvements."

Industry insiders agreed that the investment in lab equipment has raised the companies' production costs - and is contributing to an increase in food prices.

"If businesses keep spending huge amounts of money on tests to guarantee the quality of their products, food prices won't cease increasing," said Sha Jie, a food quality supervisor in Tianjin's Beichen district.

A national regulation adopted in 2006 required dairy factories to test milk for the presence of 14 different substances, a number that rose to 37 in 2010. Baby formula now must be tested for the presence of 64 different substances.

Wang Weimin, secretary general of the Xi'an's dairy association, said the methods were adopted after baby formula tainted with chemical melamine made 300,000 infants sick in 2008 and killed six others. Melamine had been added to the formula to make it appear to contain more protein than it actually did.

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