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March 26, 2012

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Probe after formula report raises fears

A REPORT by a Hong Kong-based research firm that said a brand of infant formula failed Chinese mainland standards for protein content has sparked an investigation in Shanghai.

The city's Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision told Shanghai Daily it was investigating because the report had raised fears among local consumers.

In its report, CER Research said tests showed that a sample of Abbott Similac Stage 1 purchased from a Hong Kong supermarket in December contained much lower levels of whey and higher levels of casein than allowed on the mainland.

The firm released the details on its website with the headline: "A first step towards malnutrition."

Its report said excess casein could lead to diarrhea, intestinal bleeding and kidney problems alongside malnutrition.

The report aroused public concern over the weekend as many Chinese parents purchase formula from markets outside the Chinese mainland.

However, Abbott China hit back, calling the report "utterly and deliberately misleading."

In a lawyer's letter sent to CER Research, it said: "The claim that Abbott formulas do not meet the mainland standards is simply unfounded and false. Abbott products sold in the mainland meet all regulations. Each batch of Abbott infant formula sold in the mainland has been cleared by all government tests."

Hong Kong, unlike the mainland, has no standards covering the ratio of whey and casein.

Abbott has demanded an immediate public apology and removal of the report from CER's website. The formula producer also warned it would take legal action against CER for jeopardizing its trust among consumers and harming the reputation of the brand.

Mainland standards rule that the whey to casein ratio in infant formula should be 60 to 40 percent with whey content being no less than 60 percent.

In response, CER Research said that its samples "were tested by one of the world's top food testing laboratories in Germany" and cited "comments from named top experts."

However, five of the six Chinese and foreign doctors and nutritionists said by the report to have endorsed its conclusions have now accused CER Research of misleading them when they were asked for comments.

Professor Chen Yuming, a pediatric doctor at the Public Health and Nutrition College of Zhongshan University in Guangzhou City, said he had been asked to comment on a nutritional topic and was not aware of the report and its findings. "I was used deliberately," he said.

Andrew Day, a pediatrics professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand, told Guangzhou Daily that his name and comment were used without his knowledge.

He told the newspaper he was not aware of any objective data to support the title or the conclusions of the report.


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