The WHO has set a tolerable daily intake (TDI) standard for melamine at 0.2 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, which the Department of Health (DOH) said it would take into consideration when establishing a TDI suitable for Taiwanese.
“Melamine is a contaminant that should not be in food. However, sometimes it is unavoidable,” international experts said at a meeting in Ottawa, Canada, from last Monday to Thursday.
Based on this standard, a person weighting 50kg can tolerate 10mg of melamine per day, the WHO said.
It was the first time the WHO had announced tolerable levels for melamine, a toxic industrial chemical that may cause kidney stones and other kidney disease.
Currently, baby formula, milk powder and creamers in Taiwan must test negative for melamine when screened by highly sensitive liquid chromatography/tandem mass (LC/MS/MS) spectrometers that can detect the presence of as little as 0.05 parts per million of melamine in a substance.
The DOH has not established a TDI for Taiwan.
“The WHO’s suggestion [of a melamine TDI] is important for us. But to set up a TDI in Taiwan, we need to take into consideration the eating habits of Taiwanese ... and the quantity of food consumption,” DOH spokesman Wang Je-chau (王哲超) said.
The WHO said that the TDI is meant to help national authorities set safe limits in food for withdrawal purposes should melamine be detected as a result of intentional adulteration.
“We expect this could better guide the authorities in protecting the health of their public,” said Jorgen Schlundt, WHO director for food safety.
The WHO Expert Meeting to review toxicological aspects of melamine and cyanuric acid was attended by 21 international experts, including Kang Jaw-jou (康照洲), professor at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of Toxicology.
Milk products imported from China caused serious panic in Taiwan beginning in September, as many foods — including pre-mixed beverages, biscuits and creamers — were found to be contaminated with melamine. The DOH has announced overall bans on the import of Chinese milk powder, vegetable-based proteins, ammonium bicarbonate —a leavening agent — and protein powder.
At present, at least 19 local food ingredient importers and companies have announced they plan to demand compensation from China.