The move isn't strictly about protecting public health—it's also about forcing domestic food producers to become more competitive against foreign imports. Over half of China's dairy products are now brought in from abroad, putting a dent in the local dairy industry. That’s up 10% in only the last three years—a trend the Chinese government would rather not see spread to other agricultural areas like meat or produce. As the middle class and its purchasing power continue to grow, there's less stopping the locals from spending a bit more for foreign imports they may perceive as safer.
"We will not only strengthen the work of different regulatory departments, but also eliminate loopholes in the regulations to improve supervision," said Zhang Yong, head of China's State Council Food Safety Commission.
The threat of capital punishment might do the trick of snapping local players back onto the scene, but reestablishing trust with the buying public may also require a rebranding of Chinese dairy products.
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[Image: Marc van der Chijs]