Sun, Oct 05, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Trace amounts of melamine acceptable for adults, none for infants, FDA says


Eating a tiny bit of a melamine, the chemical responsible for a global food safety scare, is not harmful — except when it’s in baby formula, US food safety officials said on Friday.

Melamine-tainted formula has sickened more than 54,000 children in China and is being blamed for the deaths of at least four babies.

The chemical has also turned up in products sold across Asia, ranging from candies to chocolates and coffee drinks, that used dairy ingredients from China. Authorities in California and Connecticut have found melamine in White Rabbit candies imported from China.

But infant formula made in the US is safe, because manufacturers do not use any ingredients from China, officials said.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on Friday its safety experts have concluded that eating a very tiny amount of melamine — 2.5 parts per million (ppm) — would not raise health concerns, even if a person ate food that was tainted with the chemical every day.

Separately, a New Jersey company announced a recall of Chinese-made yogurt drinks on Friday after FDA testing found melamine.

The Blue Cat Flavor Drink, also called Lanmao, is sold nationwide in Asian groceries, said a spokesman for the company, Tristar Food Wholesale of Jersey City.

More US recalls involving melamine can be expected as product testing continues, particularly in Asian groceries around the country, FDA officials said.

FDA officials stressed that the melamine safety assessment the agency issued on Friday ded not mean US authorities would condone foods deliberately spiked with the chemical.

The 2.5ppm standard was meant to address situations in which the chemical accidentally comes into contact with food, such as in cases where it was used for industrial purposes in a factory that makes food products.

And infant formula sold to US consumers must be completely free of melamine, officials said.

“There is too much uncertainty to set a level in infant formula and rule out any public health concern,” the FDA said.

Unscrupulous suppliers in China appear to have been adding melamine to make watered-down milk seem protein-rich in quality-control tests. That’s because melamine is high in nitrogen, as is protein.

Also See: New products linked to melamine

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