Thursday, 10 November 2011

Chinese firm enforces strict checks on milk quality

Compared with the time that it takes to ensure the safety of a carton of milk, the two minutes it takes to drink it seems insignificant.

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Guanyu 道 said...

Chinese firm enforces strict checks on milk quality

By Zhou Wenting in Tianjin/China Daily
10 November 2011

Compared with the time that it takes to ensure the safety of a carton of milk, the two minutes it takes to drink it seems insignificant.

At the Bright Mengde Dairy plant in Tianjin, milk that is both coming and going is tested for dozens of contaminants.

After a tanker of milk arrives, Wang Ming, a sample collector, climbs onto it, removes its seals and stirs its contents 20 times with a long stick. Next he measures the milk’s temperature and then scoops some of it into a glass bottle and a plastic jar.

“The milk in the glass bottle will undergo testing for microorganisms and antibiotics,” Wang said. “And the milk in the plastic jar will be tested for fat, protein and adulteration.”

Afterward, Wang stamps serial numbers onto the bottle and jar, and locks them both in a stainless steel box.

“Only the lab workers have the key, which ensures the milk is not polluted in the process,” he said.

The samples are collected under the observation of an inspector from the quality supervision bureau.

If the testing produces good results, the truck is allowed to release its store of raw milk within 20 minutes.

“No truck can leave the factory without permission, because every car needs to be washed after it discharges milk to prepare it for carrying milk the next day,” said Yu Ximei, quality control manager at the company.

Bright Mengde Dairy also stations quality-inspection employees in every one of its suppliers’ pastures, and its quality control department conducts random checks on those suppliers once a month.

“Quality inspectors check various things, such as production environments, feed, milking machines and the cleanliness of milk trucks, as well as look for signs of epidemics,” Yu said.

She said milk was usually bottled from five to 10 hours after it has been taken into the factory.

“Various tests are conducted throughout the whole manufacturing process,” she said.

“We will reject a batch of milk at any junction if a sample fails a test. Using the stamp on a sample, we can track milk at any point in the manufacturing process.”

Also to ensure the milk’s safety, government inspectors are required to cross check.

“We send employees to the dairies at 8 am every day to bring back samples,” said Lu

Ruichun, director of Tianjin’s Product Quality Inspection Technology Research Institute’s food center. In 2008, a scandal broke out over baby formula that was tainted with melamine, an industrial chemical that can cause kidney ailments. It was added to milk to make it appear to have a higher protein content. Since then, the government has required every batch of raw milk to be tested for that substance.

Wang Xiaolei, 29, who works in the institute’s lab, said staff members at the food center were often very busy. For several years, only a few of them have been able to take vacations during the National Day holiday, which comes in October.

“We usually have 30 to 90 samples to test every day, and we forward test results to businesses that need to show they are qualified to enter the market,” Wang said.