Thu, Sep 25, 2008 - Page 1 News List

DOH eases regulations on melamine

MELAMINE MESS A two-year old girl from Taichung County, who had been living in China, was found to have calcification in a kidney after having consumed contaminated milk powder

By Shelley Huang And Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Eric Wu, 6, receives an ultrasonic kidney stone test at the Zhongxiao branch of Taipei Hospital yesterday. 

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, AP

The Department of Health (DOH) said last night that the highest permissible concentration of melamine in raw materials and processed foods is to be 2.5 parts per million (ppm), rather than zero ppm as it had announced on Tuesday.

Because of this easing of standards malt extract and creamer manufactured by Union Chemical Industrial Co, Ltd and creamer manufactured by Festsun Enterprise Co Ltd, originally declared unsafe by the DOH on Tuesday, are now considered fit for consumption because their concentration is lower than 2.5ppm.

The new standard was the result of a meeting between the DOH, Bureau of Food and Drug Analysis and Food Industry Research and Development Institute. The use of 2.5ppm as a standard mirrors that used in Hong Kong.

However, for products meant to for consumption by infants, such as baby formula, the standard is set at 1ppm.

At an earlier press conference, the DOH contradicted itself about whether vegetable-based protein products would be among the products pulled from shelves until they could be tested for melamine.

Following an emergency meeting headed by Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄), the health department announced on Tuesday night that all foodstuffs containing Chinese-made dairy or vegetable-based proteins should be pulled from store shelves within 24 hours for batch-by-batch examination.

However, Deputy Health Minister Sung Yen-jen (宋晏仁) told a 5:30pm press conference yesterday that Chinese-made instant coffee, milk tea and creamer in liquid and powder form were to be removed unless their manufacturers or importers had obtained certificates proving the products were safe.

His announcement, however, made no mention of “plant proteins,” only “creamer.”

When reporters asked about the change, Sung simply read the official press release again.

When reporters pressed for details of which products were to be pulled, Sung would only say, “The companies are all very clear on this.”

He then left the press conference without providing any further comment.

Sung was later “persuaded” to come back and hold a second press conference late last night. However, this was done without giving notice to reporters who had already left the premises.

During the second press conference, Sung told remaining reporters to ignore the previous standards he mentioned in the first press conference yesterday.

“The press release then was incorrect,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Liu Feng-ching (劉芳青) at Jenai Hospital in Dali Township (大里), Taichung County, said yesterday that a two-year-old baby girl whose family has been living in China has been given melamine-contaminated milk powder for more than a year.

The toddler’s father took her to the hospital on Monday for a checkup and doctors found she had calcification in her left kidney and blood in her urine, Liu said.

Liu said that the father told her that the baby had not consumed Sanlu brand baby formula, but another brand that had been listed by China as one of 21 brands found to have been contaminated with melamine.

Local health authorities reported the case to the DOH yesterday.

Meanwhile, Hung Jui-bin (洪瑞彬), director-general of the Council for Economic Planning and Development’s Economic Research Department, said yesterday that the melamine-contamination scandal has had a limited impact on local businesses.

Chinese milk power imports account for about 10 percent to 15 percent of total imports.

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