Melamine Scandal Far More Widespread Than Thought

(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

This from Richard Spencer in Beijing, this morning:

A statement posted on online government media overnight said that 294,000 babies and young children had suffered “urinary system abnormalities” after drinking formula milk from Sanlu, the company most seriously affected, and other brand names.

It now says as many as six infants died and up to 294,000 suffered from urinary tract ailments including kidney stones. That figure is a lot higher than had previously been reported. More than 850 children are still being treated in hospital; at least 150 of them are said to be seriously ill. Why? Last year, China’s dairy industry was worth $18 billion. That’s a whole lot of dairy products.

And now we have this: French farm finds 30 times higher level melamine in China-made soymeal. WTF? Is melamine in everything? Click on the link, it will tell you a whole lot more about the widening scandal.

Additionally, we’re now told by the Chinese authorities that melamine is probably being routinely added to Chinese animal feed. Probably? How does one explain that? And what does it mean? Fed to which animals?

My previous diaries on this, with an updated tainted product list are here, here and here, in addition to those from Deep Harm. In the first part of this year, an average of 12,000 tonnes of dairy products were exported each month. In October, after the scandal broke, that fell to just over 1,000 tonnes.

FDA is scrambling to reverse its position on what is an “acceptable” level. Judging by their calculations, I don’t feel safe ingesting any amount of the damn chemical.

Given the pervasiveness of melamine, it’s always possible that trace elements will end up in food. The F.D.A. thus sets the legal limit for melamine in food at 2.5 parts per million. This amount is indeed minuscule, a couple of sand grains in an expanse of desert that pose no real threat to public health. Moreover, the 2.5 p.p.m. figure is calculated for a person weighing 132 pounds, a cautious benchmark given that the average adult weighs 150 to 180 pounds. But these figures obscure more than they reveal. First, while adults eat about one-fortieth of their weight every day, toddlers consume closer to one-tenth. Although scientists haven’t measured the differential impact of melamine on infants versus adults, it’s likely that this intensified ratio would at least double (if not quadruple) the impact of legal levels of melamine on toddlers. This doubled exposure might not land a child in the hospital, but it could certainly contribute to the long-term kidney and liver problems that we know are caused by chronic exposure to melamine.

The Chinese authorities are meeting US treasury officials this week. Are they going to offer them a bailout?

Last month the Food and Drug Administration in the United States imposed an import alert which made it hard for Chinese firms to export their products to the US. The businesses involved are hoping that a meeting between Chinese leaders and the US treasury secretary in Beijing on Thursday, part of a regular economic dialogue, will produce an easing of restrictions imposed on them.


And, pray, what are the Chinese authorities doing about it?

Authorities in a Chinese city have detained the owner of a feed processing factory suspected of selling chicken feed tainted with an industrial chemical that was later found in eggs, state media reported. The official Xinhua News Agency said late Tuesday that authorities in the northeastern city of Shenyang found that the factory mixed an ingredient tainted with melamine into feed sold to the country’s leading egg producer, Dalian Hanwei Enterprise Group.

Well, I feel a lot better now that they have the ONE culprit in the docks!


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    • RiaD on December 2, 2008 at 8:11 pm
    • Edger on December 2, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    If you have a baby, maybe it’s an idea to start making your own baby food.

    Health Canada tests find melamine in baby food

    Globe and Mail, November 27, 2008

    Separate testing by both Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has detected traces of melamine in infant formula, one of the first times the industrial chemical used to make plastic has been found in baby food made in North America.

    The melamine levels were well below Health Canada’s safety limits, although some public health advocates are critical of the industry and regulators for allowing any residues of a potentially dangerous substance in food for infants.

    Health officials have been on alert for the chemical since the discovery this year of a massive case of melamine poisoning in China, where milk was deliberately adulterated with the chemical, leading to illnesses in more than 50,000 children, including cases of acute kidney failure.

    The U.S. melamine findings came to light this week through a Freedom of Information Act request from The Associated Press for the FDA’s testing records.

    In response to e-mailed questions, Health Canada confirmed that it has also tested infant food products for the contaminant and found it in “some” formula. But it said “the levels are extremely low and would not represent a risk to Canadian children.”

    The Associated Press said the FDA also detected cyanuric acid, a chemical related to melamine, in the formula of one of the manufacturers whose products it examined, while another company confirmed to AP that its in-house testing had also found traces of melamine.

    The three firms involved – Abbott Laboratories, NestlĂ© and Mead Johnson – account for more than 90 per cent of U.S. infant formula sales.

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