Nearly half of Chinese dairies inspected in a government safety audit have been ordered to stop production, a spokesman said today.
The move follows the 2008 melamine-in-baby milk health scandal, in which Chinese authorities said at least six babies died and another 300,000 were sickened.
Only 643 companies from a total of 1176 had their licences renewed, while 426 failed the quality criteria set by the audit and 107 others had already stopped production to bring themselves into compliance, said administration spokesman Li Yuanping in comments reported on its website.
Of the 145 companies producing milk powder for babies, 114 had their licence renewed, he said.
The authorities will strengthen supervision of dairy companies, both those who passed the audit and the those who did not, and "production without authorisation will be severely punished", said Li.
The measures taken will lead to more than 20 percent of businesses being closed, the Dairy Producers Association of China predicted in an article in China Daily.