China Goes In Search Of The Formula For Breast Milk

Modern formula's formula, so to speak, includes certain components of breast milk. The government plans to spend US$1.6 million to create something that's much closer to the real thing, revitalizing its domestic industry in the process.

What's the Latest Development?

After placing restrictions on imports of baby formula last week, the Chinese government has announced that it's planning to spend US$1.6 million researching a formula that would more closely mimic Chinese women's own breast milk. Current domestically-produced offerings are manufactured using guidelines supplied by the World Health Organization; the new version will be made with an ingredient database developed from the research. 

What's the Big Idea?

China is the world's largest market for baby formula, with parents buying $15 billion worth last year alone. However, much of that comes from overseas, due in some part to a 2008 incident in which six infants died after ingesting melamine-laced domestic formula. Due largely to aggressive marketing by formula companies, governmental efforts to encourage breastfeeding haven't been successful: Only 28 percent of Chinese mothers go that route, compared to 40 percent of mothers worldwide. So if, as predicted, formula will continue to be a permanent part of infants' diets, it makes sense for the government to revive and encourage the use of "recipes" that are close to homegrown.

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