The Chinese government has imposed new limits on foreign brands of milk powder and infant formula sold in China, according to reports on Monday by the state-run news media.
The restrictions appear to be the latest attempt by the government to reduce the enormous demand for foreign-made dairy products and bolster the sales of domestic brands.
The new restrictions require foreign makers of milk powder to register the products, as well as their manufacturing and storage centers, with the government before the products can be sold in China. On Monday, The Beijing News released a list of the 41 foreign companies and manufacturing sites that have been registered so far. It includes subsidiaries of Nestlé, a Swiss company, in Germany and the Netherlands; Wyeth Nutrition, a company that Nestlé recently bought from Pfizer, in Ireland; Abbott Laboratories, an American company, in the Netherlands; and Nutricia, owned by Danone of France, in New Zealand, Germany and the Netherlands. The list could expand as more companies apply to register their products with China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.
The new rule officially went into effect last Thursday. A month before, the government began requiring foreign makers of milk powder to put Chinese-language labels on products intended for sale in China before the products were shipped to the country.
The Beijing News quoted a dairy industry expert who said that the government was trying to stop "illegal" brands from being sold in China and to allow only large, trusted brands into the market.
The demand in China for foreign-made infant formula and milk powder surged in 2008, when at least six babies died and more than 300,000 children fell ill after drinking milk products tainted with melamine, a toxic chemical used in manufacturing. Government officials prevented Chinese news organizations from reporting the deaths and illnesses until after the end of the Beijing Summer Olympics, leading to accusations of a government cover-up. Later, the government suppressed calls by grieving parents for a thorough investigation.