Dumex’s “Arla Baby and Me” Infant Milk Formula Products Found to Contain Vanillin 06-03-2022

Recently, Dumex’s “Arla Baby & Me” Infant Milk Formula product were found by market regulatory authorities in China to contain the prohibited substance vanillin. Other brands in which vanillin was detected include Bioshine’s first stage goat milk powder and Ausnutria’s first stage milk powder.

According to the related reports from 2016 to 2022 and sampling data from the marketing department, 50% of the infant milk powder failing inspection was first stage milk powder (aimed at infants between 0 and 3 months), and among these first stage infant milk powders that failed inspection, vanillin was present in 19% of them, second only to Enterobacter sakazakii.

In response to the detection of vanillin in these products, most enterprises insisted that the inspection failure is due to the contamination of the products by packaging materials, containers, and means of transportation during the production process. However, experts in the dairy industry believe that many enterprises may add vanillin into these infant products in order to improve the taste of baby’s milk powder. Although vanillin is not harmful, milk powder manufacturers still need to effectively improve quality control.

Chinese infant formulas forbid flavor additives including vanillin

A Chinese dairy expert, Liang Song, told a news reporter that the quality of infant formula has been the topic of discussion many years. A few years ago, the focus was on food safety, such as the discovery of the bacterium Enterobacter sakazakii in baby milk powder. In recent years, discussion mostly focuses on excessive or non-standard elements found in sampling inspections, such as the prohibited substance vanillin.

Vanillin is a commonly-used food additive. Because of its vanilla bean aroma and strong milky flavor, it is widely used in various flavored foods that need to increase the aroma of milk, especially dairy products, baked goods, beverages and edible oils. The use of vanillin in accordance with the standard requirements does not cause health hazards to the human body, but a large amount of vanillin may cause symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and in severe cases, liver and kidney damage.

According to China’s “National food safety standard for use of food additives (GB2760-2014),” no artificial flavors should be added to formulas for infants aged from 0 to 6 months, while older infants and young children formula can consume vanillin in limited quantities according to regulations.

Milk powder brands found to contain vanillin include Mead Johnson, Arla, Ausnutria, Weiquan, Abbott and Primavita. These companies were each fined nearly RMB 10 million.

Inspection failures indicate strict standards rather than safety concerns

Currently, China’s management of infant milk powder is very strict, so most of the milk powder supplied to China must meet high quality standards. Often, if ingredients in imported infant milk powders exceed acceptable standard, it is not by a large margin. Therefore, while the recent vanillin matter shows the strictness of Chinese domestic standards, these failures of inspections do not indicate a safety issue.

The main function of vanillin in food products is to enhance flavor in order to make infants and young children have taste dependence, but there is no clinical evidence that vanillin causes harm to infants. In Europe and the United States, first stage milk powder is allowed to include vanillin, and imported milk powder is frequently sampled for vanillin, mainly because batches of milk powder produced by foreign factories are supplied to China. After each batch of milk powder is produced, the pipes in the production machinery must be cleaned. If pipes are not properly cleaned, then a trace amount of vanillin will be detected in the production of subsequent batches.

For more information, please check our Dairy Products China News.

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