Chinese dairy company Mengniu has denied allegations that it spread rumours that baby formula made by rival Synutra International caused infant girls to grow breasts.

Media reports in China during August linked Synutra’s infant formula to premature breast development in girls, sparking a food safety crisis.  

However, in an announcement posted on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange today (21 October), Mengniu said it had not “planned organised or acted relating to the claim of rival companies’ products triggered precocious puberty”.

Additionally, Mengniu moved to quash reports that some of its senior executives had been detained by police in relation to the allegations, saying: “To the best knowledge of the company, none of the directors or senior management of the group were arrested and all directors and senior management attend office as usual”.

However, Mengniu did say one of its business managers, who is not a senior management member, is co-operating with the “relevant authority in the PRC in relation to the investigation”.

Mengniu said it has reported the rumours to police and “reserves its right to claim against any “individual or organisation for spreading such false and untrue statements”. The company added it did not think the allegations would impact the group’s business.

China’s dairy industry has been plagued by safety scares in recent years. Two years ago, six children died and thousands more became ill after milk was contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine.