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Print Edition> Forum
UPDATED: July 25, 2011 NO. 30 JULY 28, 2011
Should the Raw Milk Standard Be Raised?

Raise the standard

Wang Dingmian (People's Daily): Some people said the current raw milk standard is based on China's national conditions and meant to protect the interests of small and medium-sized dairy farming. I don't agree with this opinion.

Is it China's present national conditions can't ensure high-quality milk? As long as cows are fed with fine feed and grass, within three to five days, protein content in raw milk should increase. If a higher dairy standard can bring huge profits and the milk failing to meet a higher standard is forbidden to be sold, farmers will have to increase investment in their cows and more importantly, profits should be enough for them to raise the raw milk quality.

It is argued that small-scale farming can't produce high-quality milk, as small-scale farming often features poor sanitary conditions and limited means of preserving milk and thus the aerobic plate count in raw milk tends to be high. Nevertheless, the truth is it's not farmers who fail to control aerobic plate count, but the dairy producers.

The moment milk is collected, the aerobic plate count a milliliter is about 3,000 to 5,000 and later the number grows to around 2 million. This increase results from processing in dairy companies. Before milk reaches treatment stations, farmers can preserve it by immersing the container in ice and this is not a difficult job.

Many farmers said because of reductions in raw milk prices producers pay them, they can hardly cover the cost of feed and labor, not to mention making a profit. While the domestic demand for dairy products is rising, milk is being poured away and cows are being killed. If milk brings them profits, why should the farmers do this?

Chinese consumers actually don't like to buy low quality domestic milk. Nowadays, more and more Chinese are trying to buy foreign dairy products. Consumers are not confident in domestic milk, so farmers have no choice but to pour it away or sell it at low prices. Many farmers are losing money by raising cows.

A lower standard is not benefiting farmers who are engaging in small and medium-sized dairy farming, but is instead indirectly sacrificing their interests. Consumers are buying greater quantities of foreign dairy products sometimes at high prices, or at risk of buying counterfeit products, because they are losing confidence in domestic products with low quality. Large-scale dairy producers are the only beneficiaries of a lowered standard for raw milk, as they are able to acquire raw milk and expand market share in a cost-effective way.

Zhang Senlin (www.xinhuanet.com): In the debate over China's current raw milk standard, some people said it's more important to ensure everyone has milk to drink than to raise the standard. If a stricter standard is put into place, the majority of China's dairy farmers will be forced to throw out milk or even sell some of their cows. When dairy farmers go bankrupt, most people will have no milk to drink. However, with a low standard, farmers will manage to provide milk to dairy producers and consumers will then have plenty of milk to drink.

Obviously, this opinion is groundless. First of all, the raw milk standard implemented in China before 2010 was not high enough. According to that standard, the maximum limit for bacteria in raw milk, or the aerobic plate count, was set at 500,000 a milliliter, while protein content stood at 2.95 grams per 100 grams of milk.

Undoubtedly, with the improvement in people's living conditions, the public expects to drink more nutritious and safer milk, but the new standard revised in 2010 set the aerobic plate count three times higher than before, which is 20 times that of the United States and European Union. As for the protein content, China's standard is 2.8 grams or more, lower than that of the developed countries. Therefore, the new raw milk safety standard has been scorned as the weakest in the world.

People drink milk hoping that it will make them strong. If there is little nutrition and a lot of bacteria in the milk, then it is no longer good and harmful to people's health. Why should people continue to drink such substandard milk?

It's irresponsible to lower raw milk standard in favor of big dairy producers. It's necessary to gradually raise the safety standards, and guide producers to improve production technology and managerial expertise through market competition, so the Chinese people can drink safe and nutritious milk.

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