By staff reporter Li Hujun
From Caijing Online
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it never issued a safety certificate to Osteoblasts Milk Protein (OMP), a milk additive used, and apparently named, by China’s leading dairy producer Mengniu.
Mengniu used OMP in its upmarket product Milk Deluxe, claiming the additive is widely used in Europe, the United States and Japan. According to Mengniu, the additive had been certified as safe by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority as well as the U.S. FDA.
Mengniu's chief technology officer, Mu Zhishen, wrote in several papers during the past two years that the major active ingredient OMP – a Mengniu neologism – is IGF-1, or Insulin-like Growth Factors, which can aid human absorption of calcium.
But after a government investigation was launched on the untested additive, Mengniu denied it has added IGF-1 to Milk Deluxe. Instead, the dairy said OMP is actually Milk Basic Protein (MBP), an integrant listed in FDA's safe list.
"FDA labeled MBP as safe in food products and set no limit on its quantity," claimed the company in a press statement. At a February 14 press conference, Mu Zhishen provided a letter from FDA saying the administration has granted MBP the certificate of Substances Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).
However, Caijing learned that the letter was issued by the FDA to an additive used by the Japanese company Snow Brand, rather than the substance Mengniu used, which is imported from
Moreover, according to FDA press officer Stephanie Kwisnek, the letter, can't be seen as a formal safety certificate issued by the administration.
Members of the dairy industry have started questioning Mengniu over the usage of OMP. Wang Dingmian, the vice director of the Guangdong Dairy Industry Association, said earlier that the association found that OMP is seldom used in milk products overseas.
Chinese regulator recently ordered Mengniu to stop using OMP, as the ingredient has not been approved by the government as safe. Although later tests by the Ministry of Health found OMP does not pose a risk to human, the ban stayed in place.
Wang said that no conclusion about the impact of OMP on human health has been proven globally. He says the association may sue the Ministry of Health if it issues an official document affirming the safety of OMP.