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Friday, November 14, 2008

More Transparency Needed on Melamine Testing Procedures

Update: Health Canada is adopting this new TDI recommended by the WHO expert consultation, and will be taking the additional measure of lowering its allowable level for melamine in infant formula from 1 ppm to 0.5 ppm in order to ensure that exposures remain below this new TDI. The new 0.5 ppm standard for melamine will apply to all infant formula products. But Taiwan's remains unchanged?

From pet food to baby formula, from pig and poultry feed to biscuits and chocolates we consume, the scare continues… the developing stories of Melamine (C3H6N6).

Refer to then use “melamine” under search topic and go. Also refer to

Background information:

Following reports of sickness and death of pet animals (cats and dogs) in the United States beginning February 2007, US Authorities began an investigation to trace the source of these animal health problems. In mid-March 2007 it was found that wheat gluten imported from China and used for the production of pet food was the origin of these problems. As a result, a recall of pet food containing the wheat gluten began. Further investigations revealed that melamine, an industrial chemical high in nitrogen, that is used in such materials as plastics, had most likely been fraudulently added to wheat gluten and other protein sources to enhance the apparent protein content of these feed stuffs. While there is no evidence that contaminated wheat gluten originating from China has been imported into the EU, Member States have been asked by the European Commission to control consignments of wheat gluten originating from third countries and in particular China. On May 16 2007, EFSA received a request from the European Commission to provide scientific advice on the presence of melamine and structurally related compounds in protein sources to be used for feed and food.

Additional background information:

Thanks to Eric Chang (whom I don’t know and just saw him on video clip), had inspired me to investigate the topic of melamine, and had stated in his blog, (just scroll down to read Saturday, September 27, 2008) Made in China, Stay in China.

Excerpt from Eric's writing:

...So what has been the reaction from the KMT government in Taiwan? It can be described as slow, laughable, and worst of all, deadly for Taiwanese citizens. The KMT’s Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday night, in a move that defies all sense and reason, actually loosened the food safety standard for melamine from 0 parts per million (ppm) to 2.5 ppm, meaning that imported Chinese food products to Taiwan can contain up to 2.5 ppm of deadly melamine. Even in China, pig feed must have below 2.0 ppm of melamine...

Comparing the melamine testing standards:

I have visited many health-related sites to gather info for myself, and here is my discovery.

The Department of Health in Taiwan has actually set the acceptable level for melamine for all food products including baby formula at 2.5ppm, (see Note 1 below), which is not good enough for the health of Taiwan’s youngest citizens. They have determined so by referring to their “sister” Hong Kong of China.

In Canada, the tolerance level is currently set at 1ppm (a combined concentration of melamine and cyanuric acid, see Note 2 below) for infant formula as well as milk replacement products (food designed to replace the consumption of milk, I suppose it’s the type of food for vegetarians).

For other food (such as chocolates or biscuits which contain only a percentage of milk in their ingredients, the tolerance is set at 2.5ppm (but not melamine alone, again a combined melamine and cyanuric acid concentration cannot exceed 2.5ppm). The logical assumption I suppose is that since milk is only a small portion in the ingredient on this type of food, the higher level of melamine and cynuric acid combined at 2.5ppm is fine for the time being until their scientists prove otherwise in future, in which case, the tolerance level may be dropped further.

What I am also concerned about is the timing of the discovery of Melamine related death, was it discovered by the Chinese officials before the Olympic Games? If so, why did Chinese officials delay the disclosure just like their previous cover-up of the SARS, resulting in more victims with no knowledge of preventing further intake of Melamine poisoned food products earlier?

Information on Protein powder, read

Chinese protein powder contains melamine: DOH

By Shelley Huang STAFF REPORTER Wednesday, Oct 29, 2008, Page 1

The Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday that protein powder imported from China was found to contain 1.90 parts per million (ppm) to 5.03ppm of melamine.Health authorities randomly tested 13 batches of protein powder, six of which were contaminated with melamine.

(Blog editor’s comments: a scary nearly half (6 out of 13) of randomly selected protein powder contains melamine.)

The tainted powder was produced by two companies in China — Jilin Jinyi Egg Products Co Ltd (吉林金翼蛋品有限公司) and Dalian Green Snow Egg Product Co, Ltd (大連綠雪蛋品發展有限公司).Of the 393 tonnes of protein powder imported from China this year, 261 tonnes imported from Jilin Jinyi and Dalian Green Snow were found to be contaminated with melamine, deputy health minister Cheng Shou-hsia (鄭守夏) said at a press conference yesterday.

(Blog editor’s comments: a scary 66.41% of imported protein powder contains melamine.)

Protein powder is used in the food industry as a legal food additive.It is commonly used to produce foam and add cohesiveness. The department’s Bureau of Food and Drug Safety on Sunday randomly tested 40 samples of ham, vegetarian ham, fish paste and cakes, which are all products commonly made with protein powder. No melamine was detected in these finished products, Cheng said.

(Blog editor’s comments: They won’t tell you how they concluded “no melamine”, but judging from the high percentage of imported protein powder with melamine contamination, and the lenient melamine detection level, I am not surprised with their conclusion.)

Note 1:

Blog editor’s comments: It was not easy to find this regulation document, in other words I think the DOH needs to make improvement on its website design to make it more user-friendly.
Here it is,

DOH: Experts deliberate and determine testing standards for melamine in Taiwan

With reference to the ISO standards methods and standards legislated recently in Hong Kong, and after deliberation by the Bureau of Food and Drug Analysis with experts from the Food Industry Research and Development Institute, the DOH has decided that the appropriate standard of melamine in Taiwan is 2.5ppm.

Note 2:

Health Canada has set the following interim standards for melamine in products containing milk and milk-derived ingredients:

Infant formula and sole source nutrition products, including meal replacement products
Maximum of 1.0 part per million (ppm*)

Other food products containing milk and milk-derived ingredients
Maximum of 2.5 ppm*

It remains Health Canada's policy that levels of potential contaminants in infant foods should be kept as low as reasonably achievable.

Health Canada's interim standards for melamine in products containing milk and milk-derived ingredients are set to ensure that all age groups and segments of the population are protected and were developed using a consistent approach adopted by other food regulatory agencies in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Should new scientific evidence become available, Health Canada's risk assessment will be reviewed and the interim standards will be re-examined.

*These levels will apply to a combined concentration of melamine and cyanuric acid (a chemical generally found together with melamine).

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