Synthetic hormone ingredients in infant milk power is allegedly causing premature breast growth in Chinese babies, reported the China Daily.

Recently, blood samples of three girls from Central China aged between 15 months to four years who were suspected to be fed by the same baby formula, showed higher levels of the hormones. The estradiol and prolactin hormone levels were found exceeded than those of the average adult woman.

Following the findings, medical professionals raised an alarm against Synutra, the maker of the baby milk powder.

"The amount of hormones in the babies definitely means there's a problem," Yang Qin, the chief physician in the child care department at the Hubei Maternity and Children's Hospital, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

"The parents should stop using the formula to feed their children and the powder should be analysed," he said.

Parents of the children who developed breasts have asked the local food safety authorities to investigate the formula made by Synutra. However, the authorities turned down the request saying that they do not conduct tests at consumers' request, the report said.

Despite the news the suspected milk powder is reportedly still being sold in the Hubei provincial capital Wuhan at discounted prices.

Synutra, a company based in the eastern city of Qingdao, refuted the allegation of synthetic hormones in the baby food and continues to insist that the product was safe. "No man-made 'hormones' or any illegal substances were added during production," it said in a statement.

While experts say that the suspected hormones might have entered the food chain when farmers reared the cattle.

"Since a regulation forbidding the use of hormones to cultivate livestock has yet to be drawn up in China, it would be lying to say nobody uses it," Wang Dingmian, the former chairman of the dairy association in the southern province of Guangdong, was quoted as saying.

Earlier in 2008, Chinese dairy products were recalled worldwide after they were tested positive for melamine, a toxic chemical used to make plastics. Melanine, which was illegally added to 22 products to give the appearance of higher protein, was blamed for the deaths of 6 infants 300,000 hospitalizations.