Dem. Congresswoman Raps FDA On Melamine Risk Guidelines

(7 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

This is my fourth diary on the melamine scandal (but first here on Docudharma), and like the financial scandals it shows no sign of going away any time soon. To this day 10,666 infants are still in Chinese hospitals fighting for their lives.

Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-3), chairwoman of the Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Subcommittee, issued the following statement about the FDA’s announcement that, despite potential harm to the kidneys, some melamine would not raise health concerns:

“While other countries throughout the world, including the European Union, are acting to ban melamine-contaminated products from China, the FDA has chosen to establish an acceptable level for melamine in food in an attempt to convince consumers that it is not harmful. Not only is this is an insult to consumers, but it would appear that the FDA is condoning the intentional contamination of foods.”

Kudos to Congresswoman DeLauro, a courageous Democrat, who takes on the abject FDA head on (I am sending a link of this diary to her).

No new infant deaths have been recorded though I do not believe the Chinese authorities are about to start telling the truth. The scandal has so far been blamed for the deaths of four babies and the sickening of about 54,000 others. Even though the FDA says eating a tiny bit of a melamine is not harmful except when it is in baby formula, I am far from being sold (see their weak melamine review below). What’s being imported in the US? Milk-derived ingredients include whole milk powder, non-fat milk powder, whey powder, lactose powder, and casein. These ingredients end up in finished products like candies, cookies, desserts and beverages.

There had been virtually no standards for the amount of the chemical allowed in food products in China. Under Chinese Health Ministry guidelines released Wednesday, melamine is now limited to one part per million for infant formula and 2.5 parts per million for liquid milk, milk powder and food products that contain more than 15 percent milk.

Wang Xuening, a ministry official, acknowledged that small amounts of melamine can leech from the environment and packaging into milk and other foods, but said deliberate tainting was forbidden. I’m not all that reassured.

Levels of melamine discovered in batches of milk powder recently registered as much as 6,196 parts per million.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says its experts have concluded that eating 2.5 parts per million of melamine, a minuscule amount, would not raise health risks, even if a person ate food every day that contained it. I have my doubts.

Guidelines in Hong Kong and New Zealand say melamine in food products is considered safe at 2.5 parts per million or less, though Hong Kong has lowered the level for children under 3 and pregnant or lactating women to one part per million. The FDA got it wrong last year, when they published this document stating that:

We developed this safety/risk assessment in response to our ongoing investigation of contaminated vegetable protein products imported from China that were mislabeled as “wheat gluten” and “rice protein concentrate.” Based on currently available data and information, the results of the safety/risk assessment indicate that the consumption of pork, chicken, domestic fish, and eggs from animals inadvertently fed animal feed contaminated with melamine and its analogues is very unlikely to pose a human health risk.

If you read through the document, melamine in milk or its derivatives is not addressed. And as of September 25, 2008, the FDA testing of milk based products imported into the United States from China has not found melamine contamination. FDA officials stressed that the melamine risk assessment issued last week does not mean U.S. authorities will condone foods deliberately contaminated with the chemical. Really? Then why bother stating it? It stinks.

I remember reading David Goldstein’s piece on Huffpo about another aspect of melamine last year:

“According to recent studies, 81-percent of America’s seafood is imported, and about 40-percent of that is farmed. China is the world’s aquaculture leader, accounting for about 70-percent of global production. It is also a major U.S. supplier of farm-raised shrimp, catfish, tilapia, carp, clams, eel and other aquaculture products. We now know that it is common practice in China to spike the nitrogen level of livestock feed by adulterating the product with both scrap melamine and scrap cyanuric acid. And it has also been widely reported that this contaminated feed is routinely used in China’s burgeoning aquaculture industry.”

Stick to foodstuffs you know, eat locally as much as you possibly can, and read all the labels for provenance. List of known contaminated food products here.

Another useful link is this one for a test kit for the detection of melamine in milk and milk powder, here.


Skip to comment form

    • AAF on October 10, 2008 at 1:28 am

    Seriously, this business of tainted foodstuffs is becoming more dangerous to consumers worldwide by the day. We must remain vigilant and read all labels, very carefully.

    • Robyn on October 10, 2008 at 1:30 am

    …that this would have surprised me.

    • AAF on October 10, 2008 at 2:09 am

    The latest additions to the list are two flavors of Dutch Lady bottled sterilized milk; Silang House of Steamed Potato’s potato crackers; and two flavors of Xu Fu Ji’s puffed rice rolls.

    They join Dutch Lady strawberry- flavored sterilized milk, a Yili yogurt-flavored ice bar, and White Rabbit Creamy Candy.

    In the EU, all Chinese products containing more than 15 per cent milk, or where the percentage of milk content cannot be established, are being examined for melamine. French authorities have gone a step further, requiring that all products containing Chinese dairy ingredients are withdrawn from sale.

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