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Most Milk Declared Antibiotic-free
Most of the domestically produced fresh milk and milk powder are certified as meeting the national standards on antibiotic residues, the China Dairy Industry Association announced Tuesday.

A recent selective examination by the China Consumers' Association did not turn up any antibiotic residues in the fresh milk from 29 companies in 13 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions including Beijing, Shanghai, Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia that was examined.

"Starting late last year, our association has required all member companies to remove traces of antibiotic residues from all their products as soon as possible," said Song Kungang, chairman of the association.

The requirement was set after the Ministry of Agriculture issued an industry standard in September last year, stipulating that such residues must be removed from all products.

Experts said antibiotics are transferred to the milk shortly after they are injected or fed to the cows to cure diseases such as mastitis. People who drink such polluted dairy products might be hurt if they are allergic to antibiotics.

Song also pointed out it was because of the competition among dairies that some milk companies recently declared that their products were totally free of antibiotic residues.

"The companies' results have not been authenticated by any authorities," Song added.

Two dairy giants, the Shanghai Bright Dairy & Food Co and the Beijing Sanyuan Food Co, both claimed their products were antibiotic-free earlier this year, which has aroused concern among consumers and the news media.

Some news reports said only milk products from companies in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and some foreign companies could be antibiotic-free.

"What proof do you have for saying so?" the chairman asked.

Song said such "irresponsible" reports have brought "extraordinary" panic to consumers, who do not fully understand these professional issues.

On the other hand, a spokesman for Sanyuan said recently that the publicity concerning antibiotic-free milk is in the best interests of consumers, and is not just commercial propaganda, Xinhua News Agency reported.

It is reported the Sanyuan company invests 2 million yuan (US$242,000) every year in checking for the presence of antibiotic residues.

China's dairy industry has a relatively short history and witnessed a rapid development after the country adopted its reform and opening-up policy in 1978.

With several hundred dairy companies and 6 million cows, China's dairy industry has been under pressure from their overseas competitors this year, according to Song.

(China Daily July 31, 2002)

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