Another dairy importer suspended as officials target Australian firms

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags Infant formula Milk

In a further sign that Chinese authorities are strengthening their supervision of imported infant formula, a major Australian manufacturer with a 100-year history has seen its Chinese business registration suspended.

The latest register of Australian businesses in China showed that Viplus Dairy has been prohibited from selling its infant formula since November 4—the second dairy company to be suspended from local business this year, according to analyst CCM​.

Viplus listing on the CNCA register

Founded in 1893, Victoria-based Viplus was one of the first companies to produce and develop infant formula milk powder in Australia.

Several Viplus brands have been available in China, including Anbolac, Optimum, Olibaby and My Cravings. The company’s local subsidiary said that it still had no idea about its status in China and had not received a notice to verify the suspension.

However, China’s quarantine administration reported in June that its inspection of 3.8 tonnes of Viplus infant formula had been marked as “unqualified​” for approval. Such a status will often lead to the suspension of a product or company.

Song Liang, a Chinese dairy analyst, suggests that a suspension like this was often the result of irregular certification, irregular market circulation or food safety problems.

Since a melamine milk powder scandal which broke in the country in 2008, China has seen a strong demand for imported infant formula. In order to better manage inspections, China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) issued a notice in 2014 requiring infant formula milk powder to first be registered in China.

This can only happen after a product’s source, production, storage and supply chain are given approval by AQSIQ officials.

If there is no special occasion or warning; the formula that arrived in the country before suspension is still able to be sold in China. However, subsequent shipments cannot be imported. If the suspension period lasts too long, the dairy brands will be hugely affected in sales in China​,” said Song.

Viplus’s apparent suspension follows a similar move by Chinese authorities against a fellow Australian dairy company, Camperdown Dairy, which was disqualified in September.

Another historic dairy with 125 years’ history, Camperdown’s shipments to China include fresh, fermented and flavoured milk, as well as butter and cream.

Its suspension followed an announcement by China’s Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA) that its inspectors had detected excess levels of staphylococcus aureus​ and colibacillus​ in Camperdown’s fresh milk exports to the country.

At the same time, CNCA said it would set out to strengthen its supervision of Australia dairy enterprises in particular.

In order to assess and control the risks during production and transportation of Australian fresh milk, CNCA also required local government departments and 41 registered fresh milk companies to submit related technology certificates within a certain period. CNCA said it would organise experts to conduct technological examinations to keep the registrants up to speed.

This stepping up of supervision will raise uncertainty in the Australian dairy industry, for which China is the biggest export destination. Between 2010 and 2015, the volume of dairy trade between the two countries rose at an average annual rate of 29.8% to reach 88,900 tonnes last year at a value of A$256m (US$197m). So far, 188 dairy plants in Australia have been registered in China, including eight infant formula producers.

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