Milk Chocolate and Melamine
In early 2007, melamine in pet food killed many cats and dogs. In the recent few weeks Chinese baby formula contaminated with melamine has caused illness in many thousands of children, some of them dying. Milk chocolate contains milk products and mow melamine has been found in chocolate from China. Associated Press reported today that Cadbury recalls Chinese-made chocolates that are sold in Asia and Pacific island areas. The contaminated chocolates were made at Cadbury's Beijing plant. Cadbury candies are distributed by Hershey in the United States. AP reported that a spokesman said none of the melamine-laced candies were sold in the United States.
The recalled products included Cadbury Dark Chocette, Cadbury Eclairs, Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate, Cadbury Dairy Milk Hazelnut Chocolate, Cadbury Dairy Milk Cookies Chocolate and Cadbury Hazelnut Praline Chocolate.
Cadbury is not the only candy maker and concerns arose for other companies' products. Spokespersons of other chocolate product manufacturers, Kraft Foods (the maker of Oreo cookies) and Mars (the maker of Snickers and M&Ms) said they would perform independent tests while abiding by the recalls. Those companies would like to determine whether the contaminated products were counterfeit candies in light of the fact that no Chinese milk products are used to make their products.
Milk Products and Melamine
Nestle of Switzerland initially dismissed the possibility that their products could be contaminated (http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jI1PeFM988pC3bbnaUsdAf6tPdRg); however, one day later Red Orbit reported on September 22, 2008 that Hong Kong government officials tested and
found melamine in Chinese-made Nestle brand milk and had found that the milk was made in Qingdao, China.
The most vulnerable users of milk products, babies, were put at risk:
Melamine-laced baby formula and other dairy products in China have been blamed for sickening nearly 54,000 children and leading to four infant deaths. The industrial chemical, which is high in nitrogen, is believed to have been added to watered-down milk to mask the resulting protein deficiency and fool quality tests....
Contamination of milk products was widespread. Just yesterday, September 28, 2008, Sify News reported that Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari of Indonesia's Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM)
had found that 12 out of 19 China-based dairy products on sale in the country tested positive for melamine, a chemical found in plastic.
Tests showed melamine levels between 8.51 to 945.86 mg per kg, the health ministry said. It noted six of the products, including candies and soybean milk, had not been legally registered in Indonesia, the Jakarta Post quoted Supari as saying.
Other countries are testing Chinese made milk products for contamination. The Netherlands is testing products of 10 importers (http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/09/25/europe/EU-Netherlands-Tainted-Milk.php).
The website for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency wrote:
blockquote>The investigation into melamine contamination has been expanded to include other potentially affected products in addition to infant formula. Specifically, products made from milk or milk-derived ingredients that could contain contaminated product are being examined. Milk-derived ingredients include whole milk powder, non-fat milk powder, whey powder, lactose powder, and casein.(http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/concen/2008melamine.shtml)
Accidental versus Deliberate Contamination
Jeremy Goldkorn of Danwei writes:
It seems that doctoring substandard milk is common all over the world. This point was also made by a new story today from New Zealand, a country that prides itself on the purity of its agricultural products. (New Zealand is a major dairy producer and also home country of Fonterra, which owns 43% of Sanlu, the company responsible for the the tainted milk powder that has killed four babies and caused the current milk crisis.)
Goldkorn quotes New Zealand's 3 News:
Further tests were done in both in China and New Zealand, and results on September 22 and 23 confirmed contamination at less than four parts per million... ...The [New Zealand Food Safety Authority ] has no legal maximum residue level (MRL) for melamine in milk, even though in June it published MRLs for melamine at 0.3mg/kg in sheepmeats, and 0.15mg/kg in poultry and eggs.
Melamine can accidentally get into milk in a few ways. As reported on New Zealand's 3 News: Cyromazine is an insecticide
which breaks down to melamine in mammals and plants. Palm kernel is cheap dairy cattle feed and can be contaminated with cyromazine and therefore melamine.(http://www.danwei.org/milk/melamine_in_new_zealand_milk_p.php). With the milk products and pet food, the contamination was deliberate and not accidental. For both insoluble melamine, high in nitrogen, fools the inspectors tests for protein and allows substandard product to pass inspection. In the case of milk products, the confusion is for milk proteins such as cassein and in pet food it was for gluten (wheat protein), rice protein, and corn protein. The FDA website reports:
As a result of FDA and USDA's comprehensive investigation, on February 6, 2008, FDA announced that two Chinese nationals and the businesses they operate, along with a U.S. company and its president and chief executive officer, were indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in a scheme to import products purported to be wheat gluten into the United States that were contaminated with melamine.
After deliberate contamination, further accidental contamination makes its way through the food chains.
FDA found contaminants in vegetable proteins imported into the United States from China and used as ingredients in pet food. ... A portion of the tainted pet food was used to produce farm animal feed and fish feed. FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture discovered that some animals that ate the tainted feed had been processed into human food. Government scientists have determined that there is very low risk to human health from consuming food from animals that ate tainted feed. All tainted pet food, animal and fish feed, and vegetable proteins continue to be recalled and destroyed.
Melamine itself was not the only culprit. The American Veterinary Medicine Association reported,
It is now believed that cyanuric acid, as well as melamine, has been found in urine samples from animals that died.(http://www.avma.org/press/releases/070501_petfoodrecall.asp)
Tests conducted on contaminated pet food and necropsies from affected animals have resulted in a new theory to explain how animals are being adversely affected by contaminated pet foods. A chemical reaction between melamine and cyanuric acid is suspected of forming crystals and blocking kidney function. ... Analysis of the crystals in the kidneys of affected animals have revealed that they are approximately 70 percent cyanuric acid and 30 percent melamine, and are extremely insoluble. Furthermore, tests mixing melamine and cyanuric acid in samples of cat urine resulted in almost immediate formation of crystals that were identical to crystals found in the kidneys of affected animals. Two other melamine- related substances—ammelide and ammeline—may also play roles and are under investigation.
Risks and Awareness
Any consumable product with added protein is at risk of contamination. Flavor coatings on snacks, protein and cereal bars, soy milk, powdered milk, creamers, dessert mixes, candy, milk flavorings, animal feed, cookies, cakes, dietary supplements, special diet foods, cereals, and many more items may have added protein. Reading labels will help consumers know which items are at risk. Country-of-origin-labels (COOL) will show up starting Tuesday, September 30, 2008, making avoidance of products from particular countries much easier.(http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26945415/)