The objective of this study was to investigate the occurrence of aflatoxin M1 (AFM1) in Chinese liquid milk products. A total of 190 liquid milk samples, including 168 ultrahigh-temperature–treated milk samples and 22 pasteurized milk (PM) samples, were collected in August 2019. A screening assay with the Charm rapid test kit and a confirmation method with high-performance liquid chromatography were used for AFM1 analysis. Nine (4.74%) samples were screened positive, of which 5 (2.11%) samples were confirmed with concentration levels of 0.022 to 0.049 μg/kg. The AFM1 levels confirmed were all below the maximum residue levels set by China, the European Union, the United States, and the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The detection rate of AFM1 in domestic milk samples was 3.39%, while no AFM1 was detected in samples of imported milk. The prevalences of AFM1 detected in three groups of brands were as follows: group I, the major brands of China, 2.70%; group II, the local city domestic brands, 4.55%; and group III, the brands imported into China, 0. The detection rate of AFM1 was significantly higher in PM samples (9.09%) than in ultrahigh-temperature–treated samples (1.19%) (P < 0.05). Although the residue level of AFM1 did not exceed the maximum residue levels in any of the samples, the higher detection rate in local Chinese brands, especially in PM samples, deserves the attention of the Chinese government and consumers.

  • Liquid milk products (n = 190) in the Chinese market were analyzed for aflatoxin M1 (AFM1).

  • Samples were analyzed by the Charm rapid test kit and HPLC.

  • AFM1 was detected in domestic milk samples and pasteurized milk (PM) samples.

  • Concentrations of AFM1 in all affected samples were below the maximum residue levels (MRLs).

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